An Italian Twinkle

A tram car in Milan decorated with Italian twinkle lights

I remember the days of big lights, tinsel and rockin’ around the Christmas tree.  Christmas in the late 1950’s was all about extravagance. If you had a real Christmas tree, it was bearing the weight of the ages with multi-colored ginormous lights and gaudy ornaments.  In the ‘60’s if you were “very modern” you had an aluminum tree with a rotating electronic color wheel reminiscent of a psychedelic light show. But the lights of Christmas would never be the same when the technology of miniaturization transformed the bright bulbous lights of Christmas past into the twinkling glow of the lights of Christmas present. Suddenly neighborhoods of Clark Griswold's boasted about having “25,000 im­ported Italian twinkle lights” in their outdoor Christmas display.

Imported from Italy, miniature light sets also known as Italian lights or fairy lights, were brought to the States by George Silvestri who began using them in his display business (his famous Italian light displays were first seen on Chicago's Michigan Avenue.  Now Yuletide decorators could replace the 80 or so bulbs typically found on their grandmother’s Christmas tree with hundreds of tiny electric lights to create a winter wonderland transformed by a firefly glow. Today department stores, cityscapes and neighborhoods across the world employ hundreds of thousands of miniature lights to create displays of luminous luxury with an Italian twinkle.

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