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Holiday lights: Be happier, be greener.


The nights get longer this time of year, but not necessarily darker. Countless white and coloured Christmas lights imparting to cities and villages the appearance of starlit skies.

Thousands of years ago ancient Druids and Romans decorated trees. In time Christians embraced the practice as well. Legend has it that Protestant Reformer Martin Luther was the first to put lights on a Christmas tree. Walking home one night Luther was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling through the evergreens he passed. To share with his family he erected a tree in his home and wired the branches with lit candles. Soon a star was affixed to the top to represent the star in the east that shone where the baby Jesus layed in a manger. The lights and ornaments came to represent the stars and planets in the sky; many Christians place a manger at the base of the Christmas tree.

Like much of the world, Greece has adopted the Christmas tree as the most easily recognizable seasonal decoration. But before Christmas trees made their way into the popular consciousness, Greeks up and down the country used to decorate miniature sailboats and ships. This custom honors the country’s millennia-old maritime tradition and is no-doubt a nod to Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of seafarers, whose feast is also celebrated in December. Sailboats and ships are still popular in households across the country, and many can also be seen adorning public spaces throughout the mainland and across the Aegean, on islands like Santorini.

Nowadays our holiday lights are so impressive that they can be observed from space.NASA has been monitoring the effects holiday lights have on the Earth from space with its Suomi NPP satellite.

Contrary to popular belief, Christmas lights are not energy intensive.The power consumption depends on the type and size of each decoration: The consumption of a traditional chain of lights with incandescent bulbs fluctuates between 600 watts to decorate an average street and 1,500 watts for a major route, bringing total consumption to between 200 and 500 kWh. Lighting up a large Christmas tree soon uses 1,000 watts, which adds up to consumption of just over 300 kWh. At eight hours a night ,  and all night long on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve ,  the lights are on for about 330 hours.

Although Christmas lights are not so energy intensive , we can make our lights even more greener with a few simple adjustments. The biggest thing we can do is to switch to LED lights. If you do, you’ll use up to 70 percent less energy than you would with traditional incandescent bulbs. Plus, you won’t need to replace lights as often. LEDs last about 10 times longer.