Christmas decorations in the 1960s featured aluminum Christmas trees, and the current metal tree renaissance has created a new demand for the vintage trees and new production by American manufacturers. Traditional tree lighting included a color light wheel, usually four or five transparent colors that rotated on a plastic wheel with a clear light source. Traditionalists today enjoy the color wheel, but alternative lighting highlights the new school trees.
Authors Julie Lindemann and John Shimon explore the history of the Aluminum Specialty Company of Manitowoc, Wisconsin, one of the largest manufacturers of aluminum trees, rotating stands, and color wheels, in their book "Seasons Gleamings: The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree," published in 2004. The authors report the Wisconsin firm manufactured over a million Evergleam trees. The company recommended the color wheel option for the aluminum trees, but lighting for the pink, green, and gold trees included a single-color floodlight. Rich blue light was a popular color flood for silver trees, while pink aluminum trees frequently used single pink floodlights. The dramatic, single light source is effective for picture window tree presentation.
The traditional color wheel included a rotating selection of primary colors, with red, green, blue, and sometimes a shade of orange, with the option to stop the wheel on a favorite color. The wheel instructions positioned the light at the foot of the tree to add reflections from the bottom of the tree branches. In homes with track lighting, a simple fixture can serve as a ceiling spot to illuminate an aluminum tree. Positioning the tree directly under an overhead spot adds a unique lighting alternative. This lighting also allows more options for decorating, since the floor near the tree is free from electric cords and a light wheel.
Natural Room Lighting
Home decorating diva Martha Stewart uses several aluminum holiday trees in her home, but passes on the use of a color wheel stating, "I don't think my prettily decorated trees need such additional embellishment." Ms. Stewart lights the room with traditional lighting that also naturally illuminates the highly-decorated aluminum trees. Stewart's layering with colored tinsel helps reflect the natural lighting.
Combining ceiling spots or track lighting with one or two colored floor flood lights creates a pattern similar to stage lighting, and can be adjusted to the holiday celebrant's personal taste by adjusting the light intensity. Experiment with bulbs in the basic hues of the original color wheel (red, blue, green) to blend colors. The use of multiple lights has the advantage over the single wheel by providing depth of color, highlighting the tree with shadows and flooding the entire tree with color.
- Martha Stewart: Martha's Faux Christmas Trees
- "Seasons Gleamings: The Art of the Aluminum Christmas Tree"; John Shimon & Julie Lindemann; 2004
- The Aluminum Association: The Legacy of the Aluminum Christmas Tree
- "New York Times"; Dumpster, Spare That Tree; Bradford McKee; November 25, 2004
- Photo Credit Christmas Tree Santa image by Spyker from Fotolia.com
- How to Light a Disco Ball
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