Different names. Diverse traditions. The same spirit. The final days of the year are filled with exaltations of peace and spirituality. Over the centuries, Pagan rituals that worshipped the winter solstice were filtered through Christianity, and this religion combined rites like the tree worshipping of the Celts or Saturnalia of the first Romans with the very best of its own traditions, such as the birth of Jesus, the Three Wise Men, or the miracles of Saint Nicholas. This blend of rituals has led to what we know today as Christmas around half the world.
In the 21st century, we still ask for peace and share presents (like the Romans) and we decorate trees (like the Celts), which some people put next to Nativity scenes (like the Christians). These are just some of the common elements that go along with consumerism and an abundance of food in the company of loved ones.
Christmas around the world
In Europe, Christmas markets pop up, carols are sung on repeat and streets, shop windows and buildings boast colourful lights and decorations, all warming up the festive spirit in late November. Come December, Advent takes on the earliest preparations. In homes across Scandinavia, Germany and the Netherlands, such preparations take the form of ornaments, traditional dishes and desserts and the indispensable mulled wine. In Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark, they are complemented with fire and tree logs, a remnant of the Pagan celebration, Jól, to drive away evil spirits.
Indeed, Saint Nicholas is the true protagonist on 6 December. According to the tale, Nicholas was a very generous man whose dedication to the poor and especially children was the highlight of his religious work. Several legends bestowed the role of deliverer of presents upon him and converted him into an essential figure of the German, French, Belgian and Dutch Christmas. The Dutch then exported his story to America, at the time when New York was called New Amsterdam, reaching the other side of the Atlantic to celebrate Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas Day).
On 24 December, Christmas Eve, half the world usually enjoys (or perhaps not) family get-togethers, where carols are sung and everyone eats and drinks without a thought for tomorrow. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, visits to the pub are combined with gatherings in homes. During the latter, time is set aside during the feast to give out the Ugly Christmas Sweater award, a real tradition that began in the 80s and which Bridget Jones exported to half the planet at the beginning of the 21st century. In countries like Portugal or Greece, dinners are complemented with lights and bonfires to fight the darkness. In countries where Christian traditions carry more weight, they close the day with Midnight Mass.
On 25 December, Christmas Day, the gastronomical feast of the preceding days essentially continues, yet it has one important and distinct feature in the morning: the opening of presents by young and old alike, who then show and play with these presents outside before returning home to continue eating.
Silly and Festive Patents
Not everything involves spirituality at this time of the year. Nowadays, Christmas and consumerism go hand in hand. Nobody escapes the influence of alluring advertising campaigns that abound before, during and after these big days. In many countries, 26 December marks the end of Christmas celebrations… and the start of the sales machinery.
Not even Saint Nicholas has been able to perform a miracle to break free from commercial practices. Once New Amsterdam became New York, the Anglo-Saxon settlers turned Sinterklaas into Santa Claus and made him not just one of the most profitable characters of the Christmas star-system, but also the subject of the silliest patents. Did anyone think of creating a detector to know when Santa Claus is entering the home? American Thomas Cane did and he applied for this patent in 1994 (US5523741A).
The Christmas spirit has a very profitable commercial aspect that transcends borders. Many countries that do not take part in the tradition, like China, have patented accessories for the holiday with Santa Claus as a lure (CN207371106U).
In addition to anthropomorphous Christmas figures, other typical icons and decorative accessories, such as trees (like some in the United Kingdom that have human features, GB2334899A), lighting systems, ornaments (which are frozen in Holland, NL1032838C1), Christmas cards or packaging for presents (US9365337), have also been the object of patents.
From left to right: Customized Christmas Tree (UK), Frozen Christmas Ornament (NL) & Wrapping gifts design (USA).
But man does not live by patents alone during Christmas. Trade Marks and Denominations of Origin also have a special place during these holidays. This is well-known by turrón, the most-exported Spanish Christmas dessert of all time. The Paris Convention of 1883 and the Madrid Agreement of 1891 laid the foundations for protecting the origin of food products, an initiative that reinforced Regulation (EC) No. 1107/96, where Jijona and Alicante were acknowledged as protected geographical regions.
On this sweet final note, we wish you all Happy Holidays. Cherish your creations while disregarding your waistline. Heaven and the gyms surely can wait.