Over the next twelve business days of December, and in the lead-up to Christmas, we counted down the twelve patents of Christmas. Stay tuned for a true Australiana Christmas innovation at number one...
Artificial Christmas trees have been around since at least the 19th century, with early trees being produced in Germany from goose feathers that had been dyed green. Since then, we've seen a range of different forms of artificial trees made of materials including brush bristles, aluminum and plastic. More recently, fiber optic trees have become increasingly popular, but these aren't a new innovation - a patent was granted to a Christmas tree illuminated by optic fiber sprays in 1973.
A Christmas tree is not a Christmas tree without decorations, and going back through history a variety of objects have been used to ornament Christmas trees. Commonly, decorations were made of blown glass, but this had a drawback in the fragility of these types of ornaments. To solve this problem, an Australian inventor filed a patent for decorations made of synthetic materials, which was granted in 1962. The claimed ornaments are manufactured using a vacuum drawing process on thermoplastic material.
When there is something that needs to be done, it is human nature to seek out faster means of achieving it, and it seems the same can be said of decorating for Christmas. In 1968, a patent was filed for a tinsel dispensing gun, which used a system of rollers to dispense tinsel from a roll. While the patent was ultimately granted, the product did not have commercial success, leaving us hanging our tinsel by hand to this day.
Many credit Coca-Cola with the commercialisation of Christmas, and nowadays Christmas is not only the busiest time of the year for many retailers, it has become an industry of its own. With the commercialisation of Christmas came the inevitable release of a variety of Christmas-themed products. For example, in 1994, a design was granted to a Christmas tree shaped pasta product. And yes, this is available for purchase - or at least a replica version. Cue Google search...
Among the most common decorations to ornament a Christmas tree are Christmas lights. 'Christmas lights' were once candles, but today they are predominantly electric. In either case, a heat source combined with an often dry tree and other decorations such as cotton wadding is a significant fire risk. Every problem has a creative solution – the solution here being an automatic fire extinguishing system that can be set up to extinguish Christmas tree fires, a patent was granted for this device in 2011.
One common issue with decorating the home for Christmas is what to do with these decorations throughout the year? It is particularly problematic for those that use an artificial Christmas tree - which isn't the easiest of items to tuck away in storage. In 1961 an Australian inventor came up with a solution - an artificial Christmas tree that can be folded to take up relatively little space.
Unlike our friends on the other side of the world, the lack of snow we receive in Australia at this time of year means building a snowman/woman for Christmas is a rare or likely non-existent occurrence. However, if you’ve ever tried to build one of your own (in a snow-prone area) you’ll understand the difficulty of getting each body part to be symmetrical, and resemble a typical snowman/woman. This patent granted in 2018 takes the hassle out of sculpting the perfect snowman/woman. It provides hemispherical bowls of different sizes to sculpt the perfect snowman/woman, this quick and easy method will have your very own army of snowmen or snowwomen up and melting in no time!
You’ll rarely sit through a Christmas event without the familiar "POP" sound from a Christmas crackers… often followed by dad jokes on repeat. Traditionally, you challenge a friend to see who has the superior Christmas cracker pulling technique, and compete for the highly sought-after prize. But, what do you do when there are three of you and one has to miss out? This patent for a three-way Christmas cracker, granted in 2013, will allow just that.
If you’re getting a bit tired of seeing the same old Christmas tree every year, or you want your cat to stop wreaking havoc and knocking off the entire bottom tier of decorations, then this is the solution for you. This design granted in 2003 for a cactus Christmas tree will bring a breath of fresh air to the holiday, although we’re not too sure how to go about decorating this one…thoughts?
At Christmas time you might be hoping to find mistletoe hanging from a doorway, but this patent granted in 1984 for a mistletoe supporting headband will let you bring the mistletoe with you wherever you go. Fun fact: Australia is home to 97 species of mistletoe – although there is no mistletoe in Tasmania!
Although Christmas is often associated with snow, unfortunately, due to Australia’s climate conditions and Christmas falling during the peak of summer, we will likely never have a “white Christmas” in the traditional sense. But, with this patent for artificial snow granted in 1962, you can bring the snow to summer this Christmas and live the dream of having a “white Christmas”.
A classic Australian invention that gets a lot of use at Christmas time is of course no other than the ‘goon bag’, or the more technical term being a ‘container and pack for liquids’. This silver bag container will often hold 2-5 litres of wine, and come in a cardboard box – great value for money might we add. We call this ‘cask wine’, (or goon) and it is supposedly one of Australia's most extraordinary contributions to the wine industry.