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What are Bubble Christmas Lights?

Bubble Christmas Lights are a nostalgic holiday decoration that combines the charm of vintage design with the whimsy of bubbles. These lights feature colorful liquid-filled vials that, when heated by the incandescent bulb, create a captivating bubbling effect. They add a unique and mesmerizing touch to festive displays. Have you ever wondered how they create that magical bubble motion? Continue with us to find out.
K.C. Bruning
K.C. Bruning

Bubble Christmas lights are decorative items that consist of a plastic tube of liquid that rises from a base with a light bulb inside. They can come on a string of several lights or separately as a tube and base that can be snapped over a regular Christmas light. Traditionally, the liquid was something with a low boiling point such as a light-weight oil or methylene chloride. The heat from the light bulb would cause the liquid to bubble, hence the term bubble lights. Modern versions typically use LED light to duplicate the effect of the bubbling liquid.

Early versions of bubble Christmas lights usually had a clear light bulb and colored liquid in the tube. There were also some versions with colored lights and clear liquid. More modern variations include glitter in the liquid, decorative bases, and lights for other holidays such as Halloween.

The color of the plastic base can also vary. Early versions of the lights usually had plastic parts that were green, red, blue, and amber. Modern bubble lights come in an even wider array of colors.

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Woman posing

Most modern versions of Christmas bubble lights do not contain liquid, but rather have bubbles etched into the sides of the tube. The lights may be stationary or have LED elements in them that change the color in a way that imitates the way bubbles once appeared in the tube. There are also now larger bubble lights filled with distilled water that are made to be able to stand on their own.

Bubble Christmas lights have consistently existed in some form since they were first created in the 1940s. They were first made in Manchester, England, but quickly spread to other countries as their popularity grew. Bubble lights were most commonly used as decorations throughout the 1950s and 1970s, at which time they were essentially replaced by the smaller variety of light most popular throughout the rest of the century. They have since had a resurgence in popularity as a retro Christmas decoration.

The lights have been available in several sizes, voltages, and configurations over the years. Early versions of bubble lights came eight lights to a string with 15-volt light bulbs. The bulbs were screwed into a base. There are two kinds of base used for modern versions of bubble Christmas lights: a wedge base into which a 12-volt light bulb can be snapped into place or a candelabra-style base that accepts 120-volt light bulbs.

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Discussion Comments


I have a snowman that holds the bubble lights, but some have gone out. I want to replace them, but it's only the tube that I need. Do you know of anyone who carries only the tube replacement?


I used to think that bubble lights were only for Christmas decorations, but then I visited a holiday warehouse and found some awesome ones made for Halloween. They were very imaginatively designed, and I bought several for my party.

One features a transparent ghost over the tube of liquid. He is smiling and holding a pumpkin in one hand. You can see the slight image of several black cats underneath him, where the liquid bubbles orange.

Another bubble light has a pumpkin wearing a top hat sitting on top of a glitter globe. Inside the globe are four black cats and silver glitter. The color in this one changes constantly, and I applaud whoever designed this.


My daughter has her very own Christmas tree in her room, and we call it the “fairy tree.” It is decorated with characters from fairy tales, dragonflies, butterflies, and glitter ornaments, so glitter bubble lights seemed appropriate for this tree.

I found some that had a sort of iridescent base with hints of pink and purple, depending on how the light hit it. They are filled with gold, silver, and purple glitter, and she loves to just sit and watch it dance around inside the tube.

When I was young, I never could have found bubble lights this special. They were rather basic back then, but today, there is an astounding variety with lights to match any tree.


@lighth0se33 – This just goes to show that you lean toward what you grew up with. My family only used bubble lights for the Christmas tree, so I love them. I will likely always prefer them to regular stringed lights.

The cool thing was that even though they came several to a string, each light had a clip on the bottom so that it could be attached to a branch of the tree. I hate fighting with ordinary strings of lights to make them stay put, so this was a wonderful feature.

I'm old-school, so I like the traditional, basic colors. I don't go for the glittery kind or any with LED lights in them, because these don't remind me of my childhood.


These are some odd looking Christmas tree lights, to me. I grew up with strings of small, multicolored lights, and when I first saw a tree with bubble lights on it, they appeared gaudy and out of place.

They don't look like Christmas ornaments. They look like fake candles attached to a base that tries to look like an ornament.

Christmas bubble lights look more like something a child would want to play with than something you should use to adorn your tree. Sure, the movement of the liquid is intriguing, but the design as a whole is just weird.

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