Elves, pages, magic logs, the Grinch, Santa Claus, the Three Wise Men… none of them are the true stars of the Christmas holidays. They are all overshadowed by a huge crowd of crazy little people, who we colloquially and lovingly know as children. Christmas belongs to them, hands down. They are the reason the whole paraphernalia of excess makes sense. And, thanks to them and their faces when they are eating sweets or opening their presents, we all travel back in time to that period in our lives when dreaming and playing were the only inhabitants of a world that had no mortgages or bills.
The children’s Christmas calendar substantially differs from the adults’ one. For the youngest, there are no Pagan or monotheistic traditions that matter when December arrives. To them, the month is reduced to those days whose nights are reserved for the delivery of presents.
The arrival of Saint Nicholas on 6 December is essential for German, French, Belgian and Dutch children. Oddly enough, the Dutch tradition asserts that both the saint and his page, Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) arrive from Spain to announce the imminent arrival of Christmas. They are the first to receive and open their presents in Europe. The next ones are the Italians, who, thanks to the work of Santa Lucia, receive their first delivery on the 13th.
Christmas Eve on 24 December embodies the magic of Christmas worldwide. Finally, parents around half the world can tuck their kids into bed at a sensible time.
Christmas morning is a euphoric time for the youngest, who finally find out if their wishes have been granted.If the surprise comes in the form of black coal, it means the kids will have to do their best next year to make up for the disappointing outcome… unless they live in countries like Greece or Spain. In these countries, they have their chance during the first days of January. The second opportunity for Greek kids comes thanks to Saint Basilio, who makes his delivery on 2 January, while the Three Wise Men do the same for Spanish children on the night of the 5th after delighting them with a royal Parade.
Sharing and playing are the most emblematic verbs of Christmas. This is possible thanks to the designs and mechanisms, some that are very complex, of toys and games which have been registered and patented by men and women all over the world.
Spain can boast about being one of the world’s leading toy suppliers. The so-called Valley of Toys, in the province of Alicante, is a mandatory stop for Santa Claus and the Three Wise Men. In towns like Onil (and thanks to the licenses that this town acquired from the German Playmobil), all they need is a ‘click’ to make everyone’s wishes come true (ES213479).
Dolls have been the most precocious toy in the toy industry in terms of patents and they have been the undisputed pioneers since 1883. The first patents granted in Spain were awarded to the walking models which popped up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (ES73824). This paved the way for the future Mariquitas Pérez, Barriguitas and Nancys… and it crossed borders. The good practices of their European counterparts came to the attention of the first Barbie, when the first patent for her shape was applied for in 1959 in the United States (US3009284).
As for board games, Monopoly is the game that takes the market by storm year after year. This board game has successfully reinvented itself for decades, thanks to special editions dedicated to celebrities, cities and even to TV series and films. The version we currently know was patented in 1935 and its source of inspiration was The Landlord’s Game, which American Lizzie J. Magie registered as her design in 1904 (US748626).
Other timeless classics on wish lists are games related to speed and construction. The now-defunct Spanish company, EXIN, brought electric car races to our homes after signing an agreement with the British Lines Bros, owner of the Scalextric patent, in 1962. EXIN also popularised block construction with Tente (ES264387), a line that went head to head with LEGO. The Danish company sued the Spanish company for using a very similar system. However, Tente parts came with a central hole that enabled the parts to anchor in a unique way, an essential difference that gave the final victory to EXIN.
We conclude this review of patented fantasies with a special mention of toys for people who seek to stimulate their brains and reflexes.
First, Rubik’s Cube, patented in 1983 as “Spatial Logical Toy” (US4378116) and with more videos on YouTube than Beyoncé in 2020 (over 40,000). And last but not least, the most current game, Minecraft, one of the best-selling videogames of all time which has Worlds Inc. and Microsoft at odds with each other since September 2020 due to a possible matter of patent infringement related to the granted patent (US8082501).
Truth is, we need to behave and stop infringement! Santa and the Three Wise Men have more eyes on us than Big Data!