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A timeline of Macy’s Christmas Light Show

This Philly holiday tradition dates back more than six decades.

A preview of the Macy's Christmas Light Show.
A preview of the Macy's Christmas Light Show.Read moreHEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
  1. 1955 — Wanamaker store executive Frederick M. Yost erects a 102-by-60-foot cathedral made out of papier-mâché and plywood in the store’s Grand Court.

  1. 1956 — Yost puts in the “Dancing Waters Enchanted Fountain” system and lights the fountains for Christmas, making it the first holiday light show at Wanamaker’s.

  2. 1959 — A 60-foot “Magic Christmas Tree of a Million Lights," designed by a self-educated electrical engineer from Drexel Hill, Hubert Medland, is added to the display.

  1. 1960s — Characters like Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph, outlined in light bulbs attached to plywood panels, begin to appear in the show.

  2. 1985 — The trumpeting Wanamaker Eagles in the light show are replaced by trumpeting Rudi Bears as part of a promotion of stuffed Rudi Bear dolls.

  1. 2000 — Control of the light show is programmed into a computer and the fountains are removed due to safety concerns.

  2. 2001 — The Christmas tree is removed from the show. The pageantry instead concludes with a giant American flag unfurling and “God Bless America” on the organ, in remembrance of Sept. 11, 2001.

  3. 2003 — Santa and the train were removed from the show. The headline in The Inquirer read: “A Christmas crime in the city.”

  1. 2006 — Macy’s takes over the store and redesigns the character panels, including Santa and the train, and modernizes the installation system.

  2. 2008 — A Christmas tree, even bigger and better than before, is reintroduced to the show.

  3. 2019 — More than 5,000 light changes are executed by 100,000 LED lights during the 11-minute show, which is programmed down to a 30th of a second.