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11 weird and wonderful Christmas tree patents

Photo Illustration / US Patent Office
Brian Resnick is Vox’s science and health editor, and is the co-creator of Unexplainable, Vox's podcast about unanswered questions in science. Previously, Brian was a reporter at Vox and at National Journal.

For hundreds of years, families have been cutting down evergreen trees and bringing them into their homes to celebrate Christmas. For much of that time, the Christmas tree has been simple: a live tree, some ornaments. Not much to improve on, right?

Enter American ingenuity. Over the years, inventors have been dreaming up ways to improve on the humble tree, adding features for safety or — as in the case of the Christmas tree vibrator — we're really not sure.

Here are some of the most elaborate and fun proposals for high-tech Christmas trees, found in the US Patent Office archives.

A self-extinguishing Christmas tree

Many of the patents for better trees start with the idea that trees are flammable, and we increase the risk of fire by covering them in electronics. (According to the National Fire Protection Association, firefighters respond to around 210 Christmas tree fires a year.)

Hence the self-extinguishing tree. "The pressurized fire-retardant may then egress through the valve, deflect off a guard located on top of the discharging mechanism, and cover the Christmas tree," the patent explains.

A smoke detector angel

Of course, if your tree doesn't self-extinguish, you'll want an ornament alerting you Christmas has been ruined.

Christmas tree vibrator

The patent claims the vibrations will "transmit a highly pleasing two-dimensional vibration ... without interference with the decorations."

A Christmas tree watering system disguised as a present

"Moisture level is the single most important factor in assessing the fire risk associated with the use of natural Christmas trees," writes the International Association of Arson Investigators.

So keep it hydrated. But watering cans are ugly. The solution? A watering can disguised as a present, of course.

An artificial Christmas tree with its own scent and sounds

If you'd prefer to avoid natural trees and go artificial (which can also burn), check out this model, which "incorporates a scent producing element therein." How intriguing. The tree can also "incorporate a sound producing means in the tree trunk body or the tree support, to supply holiday music."

A "simulated" Christmas tree

Or try this modernist twist on a fake tree. "There are ... many occasions where a simulated Christmas tree of mechanical construction may actually be preferred," the patent claims.

Christmas tree hood ornament holder

I'm told the future of technology is mobile. The same should be true of our Christmas trees. This invention allows a motorist to attach a Christmas tree to the hood of the car, and to hook up the lights to the car's battery.

Menorah tree

For the mixed-faith family. Avoid oil lamps, and definitely pair it with the angel smoke detector.

Device for dispensing tinsel (and the like)

Why decorate a tree by hand when you can use a gun?

"Tinsel issues through the muzzle from off a supply roll mounted at the stock," the patent explains.

Christmas tree trash bag

If your tree makes it through the season without burning down, try this container "for disposing of the carcass of the Christmas tree at the end of the Christmas season."

Naughty or nice detector

Not a tree, but it's still fun. "Originally conceived for Christmas, the 'Naughty or Nice Meter' has widespread applications and can be used for other seasons of the year or events," the patent reads.

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