Illuminating the holidays for generations

In the Lehigh Valley, there are iconic symbols that signal the holidays are just around the corner, from the opening of Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem to the lighting of the Peace Candle in Easton. But few have lasted as long as, or been as visible as, PPL’s holiday light display in Allentown.

Generations of families have delighted in the annual display illuminated for decades on PPL’s Tower Building at Ninth and Hamilton Streets. The east side illuminates a Christmas tree, while the west displays a candle — lasting symbols that are each 12 stories tall and visible for miles.

Starting a tradition

The practice of the holiday lights is estimated to have started as early as the 1930s, shortly after the Tower Building was built. In those days, colored cellophane was used over the clear glass windows for the display.

In the late 1930s, the lighting display was created with colored cellophane over clear glass.
In the late 1940s, the illuminated tree evolved to include two colors.
Before there was a flickering candle on the PPL Tower, the holiday illumination depicted a wreath, a symbol of joy and unity.

But the lights have seen their share of changes over the years. With the energy crisis of the 1970’s, the holiday lighting program ground to a halt. In the ‘90s, colored shades were swapped in each season, with fluorescent lights helping the colors glow.

The lighting display from 2004, which shows the use of colored shades with fluorescent bulbs.

In 2013, the company switched to all LED lights on specially designed window shades, saving about 50% on energy costs and reducing maintenance. That switch enabled another change — adding an ornament to the top of the tree that slowly changes color and a flickering flame on the candle.

A group effort
This symbol of the holidays wouldn’t be possible without the help of many PPL employees.

In the early days, certain offices with windows in the design would be told to leave their lights on so the color would show through the cellophane. Others would have to draw their shades to provide the dark background.

In more recent years, the display requires a coordinated effort from employees who work in the Tower Building to remember to draw the shades at the end of each day.

While many PPL employees are working remotely today, the tradition continues — illuminating the holiday display that has become a tradition for many families throughout our region.

This year, The PPL Tower building holiday display will be illuminated from Nov. 23 through Jan. 6, 2021.

PPL Holiday Lights – By The Numbers 

  • 102 windows are used in the display.
  • 660 linear feet of LED light fixtures hold 10,000 lights for the display.
  • Symbols are 12 stories high

December 15, 2020

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