Christmas lights are a significant part of holiday decorations, adding warmth and festivity to the season. However, the origin of these lights often goes unnoticed. In this blog post, we explore the topic of manufacturing and origins of decorative lights, and provide some tips on purchasing high quality lights.
A common question that we get in our online chat is “are your Christmas lights made in China?” or "Are your Christmas lights made in the USA?". We then have to explain that there are actually no manufacturers of Christmas lights in North America, which surprises many people!
The Birth of Electric Christmas Lights
Traditionally, Christmas trees were illuminated by small candles adorning the boughs of the tree. Electric Christmas lights were first invented in America in the late 1800s to illuminate a tree without candles. The invention is often credited to Edward H. Johnson, an associate of Thomas Edison, as he ventured to light up his own Christmas tree with red, white, and blue bulbs. The trend slowly caught on, and businesses began decorating their store windows during the holidays. As their popularity grew, the United States would become the hub of Christmas light manufacturing for many decades.
Eventually, however, production started moving overseas due to the attraction of lower labour-costs and materials. Today, there are no manufacturers of Christmas lights in the United States or in Canada. Though many consumers in North America would love to have locally made Christmas lights, we’ve gotten so far away from the manufacturing industry in North America that it’s become a huge hurdle to overcome if we wanted to bring it home again. The main thing holding us back? The cost of labour. Though manufacturing wages in China have increased in recent years, it is still around 40% cheaper to produce goods in China than in the United States. Plus, as wages rise in China, manufacturers are looking to other countries like Vietnam and Mexico, which still have lower wages. The fact of the matter is, if Christmas lights were manufactured in North America, they would become too expensive for most people to enjoy due to the increased production costs.
So How Can I Find Christmas Lights That I Can Trust?
“Made in China” has become synonymous with “poor quality” but that’s not always true. Rest assured, there are still high quality Christmas lights out there! You just have to know which manufacturers and suppliers you can trust.
With the ability to purchase Christmas lights online, you’re met with a lot of choice, so it’s helpful to know what to look for. Giant retailers like Amazon have a dizzying selection of lights, but don’t be too enchanted by their low cost products. First things first - search for “commercial grade” or “professional grade” products. If you want lights that are going to be long lasting, these are the types of lights to look out for! While you probably won’t find them on Amazon, a quick Google search should bring plenty of results for both Canadian and American shoppers.
Big Star Lights is among the reputable suppliers in North America specializing in producing Christmas lights. We are committed to maintaining stringent quality standards, ensuring durable and safe products for consumers, and using the most energy-efficient technology we can. We’ve also implemented eco-friendly initiatives, like asking our manufacturers to stop using plastic film in their packaging. We ship across Canada and the contiguous United States, no hidden duties or taxes!
- For roofline lights, look for strands where the bulbs are removable and replaceable. Bonus points if you find flat wire - this means the circuit runs in parallel and you won’t have to go through the tiring process of figuring out which bulb is causing your whole line to go out.
- For smaller decorative lights like mini-lights or C6 string lights, opt for versions where the bulb is hard-wired. Although you won’t be able to replace the bulbs, this means they’ll be better protected from the elements and less susceptible to failure.
- If there is a test strand in the store, use it! We’ve seen really poor colour representation from LEDs in stores before, so it’s worth asking to plug them in before you leave the store to check them out.
- Look for “flicker free” on the packaging. LED lights have a frequency that can make them hard on the eyes as they appear to rapidly flicker. There is technology to fix this though, called Full Wave Rectifiers, which make the flickering impossible to detect by the naked eye. On string lights, rectifiers will usually be housed in a cylindrical plastic piece along the wire.
- Pick a thicker gauge wire for longevity. Thin wire is flimsy and more susceptible to breakage. For twisted wire, we recommend going no thinner than 20AWG, and for flat wire we recommend 18AWG wire. Remember: the higher the number, the thinner the wire!
- For more tips, check out our blog post 8 Ways to Avoid Buying Bad Christmas Lights
Where are Big Star Lights Christmas Lights Made?
As is common, the majority of our Christmas lights are made in Asia - primarily in China, with some being produced in Taiwan. The materials used to make our lights come from around the world, including Japanese resistors, European copper wire, and American-sourced polypropylene for protecting the wire in our lights. We work closely with our manufacturers to uphold the expected quality of our products, and to keep our fingers on the pulse of new technology. We're committed to only jump on new technologies when we are certain they are up to our standards. Plus, we have a selection of proprietary products, including our G30 bulbs, that are designed in house by a team that has over a decade of experience installing lights professionally.
The Future of Christmas Lights
It’s hard to say what might happen in the future of the Christmas lights industry. There is a large push to bring manufacturing jobs home to North America, and as such, Christmas lights may soon be a part of that. For now, though, rest assured that there are high quality Christmas lights out there - you just have to know what to look for!