Christmas Inventions and Innovations

The celebration of Christmas is full of inventions and innovations. Not all innovation has to be an invention or product. Innovation can be an idea or a series of ideas. The very concept of Christmas, I think, is a genius innovation. It’s a marketer’s dream, wrapped up as a sentimental holiday celebration. Here is the origin of some of those Christmas inventions and innovations, and a couple of new ones.

Santa Claus

The jolly guy in the red suit and white beard actually derived from the Dutch figure Sinterclaas, which derived from the giver of gifts, Saint Nicholas. The American version of Santa Claus was created in the early 1900’s. But Saint Nicholas, the patron saint of children, goes back seven hundred years ago. The church doesn’t celebrate his actual birth, but celebrates on the day of his death. He was very popular in his day and was known to be a miracle maker. He became a patron saint in the Middle Ages and was credited for liberating the city of Nancy from its Burgundian assailants. For this he had a port dedicated to him in the 15th century -The Basilica of Saint-Nicolas-de-Port.

The Feast of Saint Nicholas

The Feast of Saint Nicolas was celebrated by families on December 6th. Saint Nicolas was a huge gift-giver, usually in secret, and the tradition caught on. He was aware of the needs of others and never expected anything in return. The feast day was celebrated by the rich and the poor alike. Gift giving spread throughout Europe and gifts were often brought to children. Nuns in France began leaving gifts and treats for poor children on the eve of the Saint Nicholas Feast.

Around the time of the American Revolution, the concept of a gift-giving saint was introduced to America by Dutch immigrants. The new Dutch name of Sinterklass had morphed into the American version of Santa Claus and became the symbol of resistance against the British forces.

Gifts were either left on doorsteps or through open windows. There were no chimneys when Saint Nicholas was giving gifts. They started being delivered through the chimneys in the 13th century.

First images of Santa

In 1881, editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast, gave us our first pictures of the iconic Santa Claus we know today. His first picture of Santa was for an editorial for Harper’s Weekly called Santa in Camp. It was a lithograph of Santa visiting Union troops in camp and Christmas for a soldier on the frontline. The Santa pictures in the editorial were so successful that they featured pictures of Santa in every Christmas edition after that. It was later published as a children’s book. Nast also seems to be the one who came up with Santa’s naughty and nice list.

Christmas Caroling

Some of the first carols were sung during the Winter Solstice. They were meant to keep people’s spirits up. This included plays, feasts and dancing. The first carols were produced by Franciscan friars, who were followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. They would sing and dance in a circle with linked hands.

Pagan songs turned into Christian songs and eventually were all sung in Latin. But most people couldn’t understand them and by the Middle Ages caroling was losing some of its popularity. Then St. Francis of Assisi put on nativity plays with new carols people could understand. Eventually people sang these carols in the street, and the modern version of Christmas caroling as we now know it continues to this day.

Christmas Tree

The Christmas tree tradition started in 16th century Germany when Christians decorated their homes with them. The idea of putting lights on the trees came from protestant reformer Martin Luther. who came up with the idea one night while he was walking home composing a sermon. He looked up at the stars twinkling through the evergreen trees. He wanted to capture the beauty for his family, so he rigged a tree with wires on the branches with lighted candles. The candles were eventually replaced by Edison’s bulbs, and later by inventor Albert Sadacca, whose family made novelty products. These were a very safe version of the bulbs, which we still use today.

Christmas cards

The designer of the first Christmas card was John Calcott Horsley in the 1830s. He was a painter and illustrator and a member of an artist’s colony. It was designed for his friend Sir Henry Cole. The card shows a family gathering with the words “A Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to You”. Side panels show the poor being given clothing and food.

New Christmas Inventions and innovations:

For tiny apartment dwellers there is an innovative solution to a Christmas Tree. The wall-hanging Christmas tree is the ultimate space saver and can be hung on the wall and decorated. It leaves plenty of room for presents to go underneath it.

Mark and Tammy Bulleit from Santa Clause, Indiana, got the idea for Santa Clause telegrams after having a conversation with their local postmaster. More mail was coming into the town in the month of December than all other months combined. So, they decided to use their creativity and start a telegram from Santa business. Now children all over the world can get their own personalized letters from Santa. They come straight from the town that was named after him.

Christmas inventions

Here is a list of Christmas inventions from

Tree decorating assistant: A tree decorating assistant apparatus for applying ornaments and lighting to a Christmas (or other seasonal) tree and comprising a decoration support element, provided by a replication of animal antlers (or horns). Inventor Rodney Hairfield 2014 (US20160082587A1).

Automatic Christmas tree fire extinguisher: Adapted to be fitted on a Christmas tree. Ornamental in design and fragile to break and spread the fluid over the tree. Inventor Leonard Deyo 1947 (US2522020A).

Apparatus to prevent pets climbing a Christmas tree: Providing a screen below the bottom branches of a Christmas tree to prevent pets from climbing up the tree and destroying ornaments or dislodging needles. Inventor Nancy A. Ross 2007 (US8230812B2).

Device for permanent installation of Christmas lighting: Permanent installation to cover exterior Christmas lighting from view when not switched on. Inventor Robert G. Shaffer 1996 (US5813751A).

Snowball maker: Inner and outer cup-like shells, which interfit to compact snow into a ball. The inner shell resiliently opens to its original shape for ready release of the compacted ball of snow. Inventor Robert Stern and Thomas Wallace 1977 (US4163639A).

What do you think will become the next Christmas invention or innovation?