When applying DC to a neon lamp, only the negatively-charged electrode glows:
But... why? The electrodes are the same shape, so the electric field around them should be the same shape, and the gas should break down in the regions at which the electric field strength is above some threshold, which seems like it would be symmetrical. Is there a difference in threshold between positive and negative coronas? If so, do both sides light up at high enough voltage? Or maybe only one type of corona is possible in neon since it's a noble gas? If it contained air would it glow at both electrodes?
Do neon signs work in a different manner, since they have a long region of glowing gas, rather than just glowing near the cathode?