🎄 White lights-vs-colored lights for the holidays

🎄 Which type of light is better, and who gets to choose?

🎄 Science says one type of light has clear benefits


It’s a debate that has raged for generations, and caused great divisions among many couples during the holidays in New Jersey:

White lights or colored lights?

By the way, did you know Christmas lights were invented in New Jersey?  I digress, but keep scrolling to learn more about that story.

Questions about what type of lights to decorate your house with or hang on your tree has sparked many a fierce family fight in New Jersey.

Just posing the questions on Facebook triggered a flurry of passionate responses:

Team White Lights:

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Team Colored Lights:

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Design experts have also debated the pros and cons of white-vs-colored lights.

Why white lights?

Many believe white lights to be more elegant and their lack of color allows all your other decorations to shine through.  White lights also create a warm ambience and many find them to be more peaceful.

Eric Scott's house is adorned with white lights both inside and out for a warm and classic feel. Photo: Eric Scott
Eric Scott's house is adorned with white lights both inside and out for a warm and classic feel.
Photo: Eric Scott
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However, if you do choose white lights, New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow has this advice, “For the love of all that is holy, if you use white lights, you have to make sure they're the same color temperature. Warm white and cold white do not mix!”

Why colored lights?

Fun and festive, colored lights are more vibrant.  Designers also argue they evoke more of the youthful feel than plain white lights.

As for choosing, New Jersey 101.5 traffic reporter Bob Williams says one person should make that choice: “I say that the person who gets on that ladder, risking bodily injury to hang the lights should have the decision on white or colored lights!”

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Which does New Jersey prefer?

Most of the comments from our listeners seem to favor colored lights, but that opinion is largely driven by what you experienced in childhood.

Some of you even said as you’ve gotten older, and grown more nostalgic, you have ditched the classic white lights for a return to brightly colored lights.

Science weighs in

So passionate is this debate, that it has been studied by leading scientific organizations.

Senior Psychology Professor, Deborah Serani, from Adelphi University was interviewed on NBC’s Today Show.

Christmas lights, she says, just make people feel good.  Any Christmas decorating can release a brain chemical called dopamine, which makes people happy.

A study in the ‘Journal of Environmental Psychology’ says there is another benefit to adorning your home with lights: It makes you look friendlier to your neighbors.

Eric Scott's house is adorned with white lights. The décor has the approval of Henry and Holly. Photo: Sandra Albahary
Eric Scott's house is adorned with white lights. The décor has the approval of Henry and Holly.
Photo: Sandra Albahary
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But what is better, white lights or colored lights?

On a pure scientific basis, an argument could be made that colored lights are better.

Serani points to what is known as chromotherapy, in which colored lights have been shown to boost both levels of energy and happiness.

But nostalgia plays a huge role in our emotional responses, and if white lights make you happy, they are best for you.

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About New Jersey and Christmas lights

Ah, yes, the origin of Christmas lights really does begin in the great Garden State.

Not long after her perfected his lightbulb, Thomas Edison invited guests to his invention laboratory in Menlo Park in late December, 1879.

In addition to electrified street lamps, Edison had hung hundreds of small tiny bulbs around his compound to create what newspapers reported as a “Village of Light.”

The Lamp Is Lit
19th October 1879: The birth of the incandescent lamp; a scene in Edison's Menlo Park laboratory, New Jersey, USA. Francis Jahl is replenshing the supply of mercury in the reservoir of the Sprangel lamp. Charles Upton is behind Edison and Charles Batchelor is looking over their shoulders. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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Extra trains brought hundreds of people from all around to see the wonderous sight.

Edison did not string lights on a Christmas Tree himself, but an executive with Edison’s electric power company tried it about three years later, and the idea stuck.

It became a national trend a decade later when President Grover Cleveland, a New Jersey native, strung lights on the White House Christmas tree.

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