• 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.
Frederick M. Yost was the Wanamaker store executive who created the Christmas light show.
Inq handout
Frederick M. Yost was the Wanamaker store executive who created the Christmas light show.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Hubert Medland designed the original Wanamaker Christmas tree in the 1950s.
Credit: wanamakerorgan.com
Hubert Medland designed the original Wanamaker Christmas tree in the 1950s.
  • 1960s — Characters like Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph, outlined in light bulbs attached to plywood panels, begin to appear in the show.
  • 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.
Emily Romano sits on her father's shoulder as she watches the Christmas Light Show preview.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Emily Romano sits on her father's shoulder as she watches the Christmas Light Show preview.
  • 2000 — Control of the light show is programmed into a computer and the fountains are removed due to safety concerns.
  • 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.
  • 2003 — Santa and the train were removed from the show. The headline in The Inquirer read: “A Christmas crime in the city.”
People record the light show preview on their phones inside Macy's.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
People record the light show preview on their phones inside Macy's.
  • 2006 — Macy’s takes over the store and redesigns the character panels, including Santa and the train, and modernizes the installation system.
  • 2008 — A Christmas tree, even bigger and better than before, is reintroduced to the show.
  • 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.