Untangling the Fascinating History Behind the Fallon Christmas Tree Lighting

25 Dec 2022
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If you’ve ever joined us for the annual Fallon Christmas Tree Lighting, you know how special this spectacular event is to Fallon’s culture and history. There is truly nothing like it in the area, which is why so many people flock to this festive event year after year. Armed with festive Yuletide knowledge, we’re diving into some of the history behind Christmas lights and Fallon’s own Christmas Tree Lighting.

The Sappy History of Christmas Tree Decor

To the Christmas-lovers of today, there’s nothing better than stringing up a glowing row of multi-colored lights around a Christmas tree, or experiencing the joy of seeing a house lit up with dazzling displays of red, blue, green, and white. This modern tradition of decorating our cities and homes with Christmas lights can actually be traced to the 17th century German practice of affixing candles to Christmas trees in order to illuminate their intricately-decorated ornaments. Candles continued to be the best way to create the warm Christmas tree glow we all know and love, until the invention of electricity.

The first string of modern Christmas lights was put together in 1882 by a man named Edward Johnson, a friend and partner of Thomas Edison. Johnson, using eighty bulky pear-sized bulbs that he hand-wired, wound his creation around a Christmas tree, unknowingly changing the world of Christmas decor as we know it. Slowly, they were adopted in homes across the country, and took until the 1930s for these Christmas string lights to become widespread.

A Fallon Tradition is Born

In 1929, the residents of Fallon ventured out together for the first time in order to find a tree and bring it back for a lighting ceremony. Costing $20 (that’s about $325 in today’s money!) and standing 40 feet high, Fallon’s first Christmas tree was found near Verdi. Mayor J.N. Tedford, grandfather to the current Mayor Ken Tedford, Jr., spoke and lit the tree before a reported 3,000 attendees, as Santa passed out more than 1,900 gift bags containing candy, nuts, and fruit to participating children. The next year’s celebration proved to be even grander; the Knights of Pythias— an international and non-sectarian fraternal order supporting charitable, benevolent, fraternal and social activities—were involved in the annual ceremony, and erected a 33-foot fir tree straight from the forests of the Sierra Nevada. Fun Fact: These knights apparently liked to bust a move! They donated funds to launch a dance party at the Fallon Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony that was once called “one of the largest social functions of the season.”

An Event that Continues to Sparkle and Shine

Today, the Fallon Christmas Tree Lighting still attracts thousands of spectators, local and regional alike, to kick off the beginning of December’s Christmas Festivities— no matter how low the temperatures get! The lighting of the tree combined with a monumental fireworks show, community dinner provided by local restaurants, entertainers from all over the area, and warm hot cocoa handed out by friendly-faced volunteers, makes it one of our – and the surrounding – community’s favorite local events. 

If you couldn’t attend this year, no worries! Check the magical video we captured of 2022’s Tree Lighting:



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