Counting on Christmas Statistics > the holidays by the numbers

So you have read our post Counting on Christmas Statistics which goes back to December 19, 2006. We have been asked to provide any latest statisctics, if these were available, so here we are with the latest [if additional details are released, we will update this post].

It’s in the Mail > 19 billion > Number of cards, letters and packages the U.S. Postal Service expected to deliver between Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2008. The busiest delivery day was expected to be December 17, with more than twice as many cards and letters being processed as the average on any given day.

Rush to the Stores > $28.2 billion > Retail sales by the nation’s department stores (including leased departments) in December 2008. This represented a 40 percent jump from the previous month (when retail sales, many holiday-related, registered $20.2 billion). No other month-to-month increase in department store sales last year was as large.

Other U.S. retailers with sizable jumps in sales between November and December 2008 were book stores (95 percent); clothing stores (32 percent); jewelry stores (125 percent); radio, TV and other electronics stores (38 percent); and sporting goods stores (62 percent).

14% > The proportion of total 2008 sales for department stores (including leased departments) in December. For jewelry stores, the percentage was 18%.

23% > The proportion of growth in inventories by our nation’s department stores (excluding leased departments) through August 31 to November 30, 2008. Thanks to the holiday crowds, inventories plummeted by 25% in December.

Note: Leased departments are separately owned businesses operated as departments or concessions of other service establishments or of retail businesses, such as a separately owned shoe-shine parlor in a barber shop, or a beauty shop in a department store. Also, retail sales estimates have not been adjusted to account for seasonal or pricing variations.

$24 billion > Value of retail sales by electronic shopping and mail-order houses in December 2008–the highest total for any month last year.

16,670 > The number of electronic shopping and mail-order houses in business in 2007. These businesses, which employed 268,328 workers, are a popular source of holiday gifts. Their sales: $199 billion, of which 44.6% were attributable to e-commerce. California led the nation in the number of these establishments and their employees, with 2,493 and 32,971, respectively.

If you’re not sure where to do your shopping, choices of retail establishments abound: In 2007, there were 155,371 clothing and clothing accessories stores; 10,116 department stores; 9,515 hobby, toy and game shops; 30,920 gift, novelty and souvenir shops; 23,756 sporting goods stores; 27,484 jewelry stores; and 10,635 book stores across the nation. The figures shown are for locations with paid employees.

Christmas Trees and Decorations > $410 million > The gross earnings of Christmas tree farmers in 2007.

$109.3 million > Sales by Christmas tree farmers in Oregon in 2007, which led the nation.

$470.3 million > The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for such items. Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($28.6 million worth) during the same period.

Where the toys are… made > 94 > Number of establishments around the country that primarily manufactured dolls and stuffed toys in 2008; they employed 1,641 people. California led the nation with 17 locations.

683 > The number of locations that primarily produced games, toys, and children’s vehicles in 2007; they employed 10,708 workers. California led the nation with 112 establishments.

$3.2 billion > Total value of shipments for dolls, toys and games by manufacturers in 2007.

$4.3 billion > The value of U.S. toy imports including stuffed toys (excluding dolls), puzzles and electric trains from China between January and August 2009. China was the leading country of origin for stuffed toys coming into this country, as well as for a number of other popular holiday gifts. These include roller skates ($30 million), sports footwear ($120 million), golf balls ($31 million) and basketballs ($29 million). China leads Canada as the leading supplier of ice skates ($12 million versus $5 million), with Thailand ranking third ($4 million).

Holiday names > Place names associated with the holiday season include North Pole, Alaska (population 2,212 in 2008); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,314); Santa Claus, Ga. (250); Noel, Mo. (1,608); and, if you know about reindeer, the village of Rudolph, Wis. (412) and Dasher, Ga. (849). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,673) and a dozen places named Holly, including Holly Springs, Miss., and Mount Holly, N.C.

Hanukkah and Kwanzaa > 50.4% > Proportion of the nation’s spuds produced in Idaho and Washington in 2008. Potato latkes are always a crowd pleaser during Hanukkah.

$1.3 billion > The value of product shipments of candles in 2002 by the nation’s manufacturers. Many of these candles are lit during Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations.

New Year’s Eve and Day > 79,389 > The estimated July 1, 2008, population of Champaign, Ill., a place whose name alone may get you into a celebratory mood.

$475 million > U.S. manufacturers shipments of effervescent wines (including sparkling wines, such as champagne) in 2002.

More than 308 million > The nation’s projected population as we ring in the New Year.

Source > U.S. Census Bureau.

Santa Claus the globetrotter

Ever wondered exactly where Santa Claus is on his globetrotting, gift giving mission?

Well, NORAD’s Santa tracker allows you to pinpoint the man himself, wherever on earth he and his sledge team may be.

Santa Claus the Globetrotter

On Christmas Eve, using a combination of radar, satellites, ‘Santa Cams’ and fighter jets, NORAD monitors its systems continuously for indications that Santa Claus has left the North Pole and creates a detailed report of Santa’s flight paths for all to enjoy.

A fun, family way to see how close Santa is to your home come Christmas, you can even track his flight across the globe on Google Earth.

Enjoy monitoring Santa’s movements and have a Merry Christmas!

Related Links >

Christmas Holiday Events in New York

Posted On December 21, 2008

Filed under Entertainment
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RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR > Nothing says pizzazz like this populist crowd-pleaser, featuring the leggy Rockettes showing off their lithe physiques and precisely choreographed high kicks, an army of dancing Santas, and the multimedia extravaganza of “New York at Christmas”. As it has since its very first year, back in 1933, the show closes with the ecstatic “Living Nativity”, a dramatic retelling of the birth of Christ. (Radio City Music Hall, Sixth Ave. at 50th St. 212-307-1000. Through Dec. 30.)

THE NUTCRACKER > Balanchine’s 1954 version of the Christmas fantasy, performed by the New York City Ballet, is still the gold standard, featuring scores of children from the School of American Ballet, an exciting battle to the death between the toy soldiers and the seven-headed Mouse King, and a memorable “Waltz of the Snowflakes”. (David H. Koch Theatre, Lincoln Center. 212-721-6500. Nov. 28-Jan. 3.) 

For revisionists, Dances Patrelle’s “The Yorkville Nutcracker” is set in turn-of-the-century New York, beginning at a party at Gracie Mansion and ending up at the Crystal Palace of the Bronx Botanical Gardens. The Sugar Plum Fairy and her Cavalier are danced by the lovely Jenifer Ringer and the very capable Jared Angle, both of New York City Ballet. (Kaye Playhouse, Hunter College, Park Ave. at 68th St. 212-722-7933. Dec. 11-14.) 

Tired parents may opt for the lively New York Theatre Ballet production, only an hour long, with inspired sets modelled after the nineteenth-century English toy theatres. (Florence Gould Hall, 55 E. 59th St. 212-355-6160. Dec. 12-21.) 

The Joffrey Ballet School offers its annual “Nutcracker” performed by students; under its new director, George de la Peña, each section will be choreographed by one of the school’s teachers. (Skirball Center, 566 LaGuardia Pl. 212-279-4200. Dec. 12-14.) 

The Valentina Kozlova Dance Conservatory’s version features a female Drosselmeier (played by Kozlova) and a very impressive young dancer in the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy: the sixteen-year-old Whitney Jensen, who recently won a top honor at the international Varna Competition in Bulgaria. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 13 at 4 and 8.)

TREES > More than five hundred folded-paper animals will adorn the American Museum of Natural History’s thirteen-foot origami tree this year, on display in the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Hall, representing inhabitants of the museum’s dioramas, permanent halls, and special exhibitions. Through Jan. 4. (Central Park W. at 79th St. 212-769-5100.) 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Christmas tree, located in the Medieval Sculpture Hall starting Nov. 25, is a brilliantly lit conifer laden with flying silk-robed angels and cherubim who hover above the Neapolitan Baroque crèche at its base. Tree-lighting ceremonies are held Tuesday through Sunday at 4:30, with additional lightings Fridays and Saturdays at 5:30 and 6:30. (Fifth Ave. at 82nd St. 212-535-7710. Through Jan. 6.) 

Rockefeller Center’s illustrious behemoth is illuminated for the seventy-sixth time on Dec. 3. It will be set aglow near the end of a star-studded ceremony that runs from 7 to 9. (Fifth Ave. at 50th St. Through Jan. 7.)

HANUKKAH > The Festival of Lights begins this year on Dec. 21. That afternoon, at 5:30, the first lamp will be lit atop the thirty-two-foot-tall menorah on Fifth Ave. at 59th St. There will also be live music, dancing, and hot latkes. A light will be added each night at the same time through Dec. 28, except for Friday and Saturday, when the lighting takes place at 3:45 and 8:30, respectively. (For more information, call 718-778-6000.) 

Dec. 21-28: The prolific indie rockers Yo La Tengo, led by front man Ira Kaplan, play all eight nights in their hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, at Maxwell’s, continuing a tradition held (almost) every year since 2001. A different unannounced and unusual act precedes them nightly. (1039 Washington St. 201-653-1703.) 

Dec. 21-30: The Hasidic performer Matisyahu follows suit, with his third annual eight-nights-of-reggae Hanukkah, beginning at Webster Hall. (Dec. 21-25. 125 E. 11th St.) Skipping Friday night because of the Sabbath, Matisyahu resumes the series at the Music Hall of Williamsburg for four more nights (thus making the miracle of light last a whole extra day). Special guests include Little Jackie, Brett Dennen, and Assembly of Dust. (Dec. 27-30. 66 N. 6th St., Brooklyn.)

HOLIDAY TRAIN SHOW > The New York Botanical Garden’s annual tribute to the romance of the season and the rails features model engines and cars chugging their way around the conservatory’s replicas of more than a hundred and forty New York City landmarks, all constructed from twigs, berries, leaves, seeds, and the like. Miniatures of the American Museum of Natural History’s Rose Center for Earth and Space and Central Park’s Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre are new this year, joining Ellis Island, the George Washington Bridge, and Yankee Stadium. (Nov. 23-Jan. 11. Bronx River Parkway at Fordham Rd., the Bronx. 718-817-8700.)

WINTUK > The story for this Cirque du Soleil production involves a boy searching for snow. A trampoline serves as a springboard for aerialists and acrobats, who intermingle with talking lampposts and enormous puppets of dogs, birds, and ice giants. (WaMu Theatre at Madison Square Garden. 212-307-1000. Through Jan. 4.)

FOR THE TIME BEING: A CHRISTMAS ORATORIO > Michael Cumpsty directs and performs a reading of W. H. Auden’s poem from 1942. Maria Tucci narrates. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 8.)

TAPPY HOLIDAYS > This three-year-old tradition features holiday songs performed by a jazz trio and whiz-kid tap dancers. Performers include several youth ensembles, along with pros like Ayodele Casel and Jason Samuels Smith. (Symphony Space, Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 12.)

PETER AND THE WOLF > Prokofiev’s marvellous children’s tale “Peter and the Wolf,” now in its second year at “Works & Process” at the Guggenheim, is both a cautionary tale and a witty introduction to the instruments of the orchestra, courtesy of the Juilliard Ensemble. Everyone has a favorite narrator from the past (Alec Guinness, Leonard Bernstein, Sting), but here the wry Isaac Mizrahi presides. (89th St. and Fifth Ave. 212-423-3587. Dec. 13-16 and Dec. 20-21.)

WINTER SOLSTICE > Paul Winter brings his Consort back to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The show returns to the newly renovated nave of the Cathedral, which boasts a fully restored Aeolian-Skinner Pipe Organ, to be played for the first time since the 2001 fire damaged it. Special guests include the Brazilian singer and guitarist Renato Braz, the gospel singer Theresa Thomason, and the woodwind master Paul McCandless. (Amsterdam Ave. at 112th St. 866-811-4111. Dec. 18-20.)

HOLIDAY MUSIC, CLASSICAL > MESSIAH > The St. Thomas Choir, which plies its noble trade in the luxuriant Gothic splendor of its eponymous church on Fifth Avenue, has always set a certain local standard in singing Handel’s generous “entertainment” on Christian themes: no other American choir has such a strong connection to the finest traditions of Anglican music-making. The group’s musicianship and style remain impressive under the tutelage of John Scott, who leads it in two performances accompanied by the Baroque group Concert Royal; the soloists include the renowned tenor Rufus Müller. (Fifth Ave. at 53rd St. Dec. 9 and Dec. 11 at 7:30. For tickets, visit 

Kent Tritle, the longtime director of the “Sacred Music in a Sacred Space” series at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, is the big man in the “Messiah” business this year. He leads the excellent avocational singers of the Oratorio Society (with the mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and the tenor William Ferguson among the vocal soloists) in a performance at Carnegie Hall. (212-247-7800. Dec. 15 at 8.) 

Tritle also conducts “Messiah” as the music director of the superb professional group Musica Sacra, where he succeeded the late Richard Westenburg. Westenburg’s Sacra style offered a modern, symphonic rendering of the work that nonetheless had a light and smooth Baroque feel; Tritle steps into some very big shoes. (Carnegie Hall. 212-247-7800. Dec. 22-23 at 8.)

NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC > The orchestra, for several years, has offered a worthy “Messiah” of its own. This season it will be led by the Dutch Baroque-music legend Ton Koopman, making his Philharmonic début. The singers Sumnae Im, Andreas Scholl, Jörg Dürmüller, and Detlef Roth are out front, assisted by the powerful Westminster Symphonic Choir. (Dec. 17-18 at 7:30 and Dec. 19-20 at 8.) 

The Phil’s impressive brass section, teaming up with the gentlemen of the Canadian Brass, begins the holiday season with an afternoon of festive music. (Dec. 14 at 3.) 

The mezzo-soprano Susan Graham, singing music by Bizet, Lehár, and Richard Strauss, will be the special guest of the orchestra’s New Year’s Eve gala, conducted by Lorin Maazel. (Dec. 31 at 7:30.) (Avery Fisher Hall. 212-875-5656.)

CARNEGIE HALL > Deborah Voigt is the latest star singer to take over Carnegie for its holiday celebration, an evening in which she will offer arias, songs, and show tunes by Handel, Schubert, Jerry Herman, and Jule Styne; Patrick Summers conducts the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. (Dec. 16 at 8.) 

The Christmas Eve concert by the New York String Orchestra, a longtime annual convocation of young virtuosos led by Jaime Laredo, is all Mozart: the “Marriage of Figaro” Overture, the Violin Concerto No. 5 (with the appealing young violinist Augustin Hadelich), and the Symphony No. 40 in G Minor (a touch grim for such a night). (Dec. 24 at 7.) 

The final concert offers a contemporary work (by John Harbison), Mozart’s Concerto for Three Pianos (featuring the esteemed Joseph Kalichstein and two exceptional young colleagues, Shai Wosner and Alon Goldstein), and Mendelssohn’s “Scotch” Symphony. (Dec. 28 at 2.) (212-247-7800.)

METROPOLITAN MUSEUM > To hear a Christmas concert in the majestic intimacy of the museum’s Medieval Sculpture Hall is an essential New York experience. Chanticleer, the ebullient (and stunningly expert) San Francisco men’s chamber choir, has been drawing eager crowds for several years by offering a tempting mix of carols, spirituals, and sacred polyphony from the medieval and Renaissance periods. (Dec. 3-4 and Dec. 7 at 6:30 and 8:30.) 

The Gotham-based gentlemen of Lionheart, another admired male chorus, take over from their West Coast colleagues to offer “Christmas in Medieval Italy: Il Laudario di Cortona,” just before Christmas Eve. (Dec. 23 at 6:30 and 8:30.) (Fifth Ave. at 83rd St. 212-570-3949.)

THE BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS > For some reason, Bach’s chamber concertos, the bedrock of the orchestral repertoire, have become Christmastime favorites. Some of the most alluring performances can be found at the annual concerts given by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, which offers them this year at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Rose Theatre. (Broadway at 60th St. 212-875-5788. Dec. 14 at 5 and Dec. 16 at 7:30.) 

Bargemusic, the doughty chamber-music series on Brooklyn’s Fulton Ferry Landing, is a cozy winter nook that offers spectacular views of New York Harbor and wine and cheese at intermission. The violinist Mark Peskanov, the barge’s artistic director, leads a band of New York’s finest young musicians in Bach’s masterworks on New Year’s Eve. (Dec. 31 at 7:30.) (718-624-2083.) 

Upper West Siders who want to stay close to home can bring the kids to Symphony Space’s “All-Star” Brandenburgs, featuring such estimable musicians as the flutists Eugenia Zukerman and Tara Helen O’Connor and the harpsichordist Bradley Brookshire. (Broadway at 95th St. 212-864-5400. Dec. 19 at 8.)

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Festive Christmas recipes > spiced tea cake

Posted On November 8, 2008

Filed under Festive Recipes
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Ingredients >
350g self raising flour
140g unsalted butter, cubed
175g unrefined Demerara sugar
240mls water
140g mixed dried fruit
1 tsp mixed ground spice
11/2 level tsp baking powder
pinch if salt

Method >
Place the butter, sugar, salt and water into a saucepan and simmer for a minute.

Pour into a bowl and stir in all the dry ingredients, and mix well.

Spoon into a lined 1lb loaf tin and pop into the pre heated oven and cook for 40 minutes or until well risen and slightly firm to the touch.

Serve this cake thickly sliced and spread with butter.

Festive Christmas recipes > Christmas pudding

I love using Cider in my recipes, here it gives extra moisture and wonderful flavour to the dried fruits and grated apple in a traditional Christmas pudding. And as if that wasn’t enough, there’s another secret ingredient too, chocolate!

Ingredients >
115g/4oz raisins
115g/4oz currants
115g/4oz sultanas
55g/2oz chopped mixed peel
115g/4oz coarsely grated carrot
115g/4oz cooking apple, peeled and coarsely grated
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
100ml/3½fl oz cider
2 eggs, beaten
1 tbsp black treacle
115g/4oz muscovado sugar
115g/4oz plain flour, sieved
½ tsp mixed spice
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
115g/4oz ground almonds
115g/4oz vegetable suet
85g/3oz bitter plain chocolate, roughly chopped

Method >
Grease a 1.2 litre/2 pint pudding basin, cut out a small circle of greaseproof paper and use to line the base.
Place dried fruits, chopped peel, grated carrot and apple and orange zest in a large bowl, pour over the cider and allow to stand for about 10 minutes.
Add the beaten eggs, treacle and sugar to the soaked fruits and stir well to combine, then add the flour, spices, ground almonds, suet and chocolate and mix well together.
Pour the mixture into the pudding basin and cover with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Place a large piece of foil on top of a large piece of greaseproof paper then fold in the centre to make a pleat.
Place the pleated papers on top of the pudding basin and use a long piece of string to tightly tie the papers just below the rim of the basin.
With an extra piece of string, tie a long loop across the top – you can use this as a handle to help lower and lift the pudding in and out of the pan.
Place a heatproof saucer in the bottom of a large saucepan and sit the pudding on top.
Fill the pan with enough boiling water to come halfway up the sides of the basin then cover with a tightly fitting lid and bring the water to the boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 7-8 hours.
Check the water every couple of hours and add extra boiling water as necessary to maintain the water level.
Serve with clotted cream, brandy butter or lashings of custard.

Finely chopped left over Christmas pudding makes a great ice cream folded into softened vanilla ice cream, even the kids will like it. 

Serves: 8.

Festive Christmas recipes > Rocky Road Brownie

Ingredients >
200g dark chocolate, chopped
100g condensed milk
50mls Baileys® Irish cream
25g butter, melted
75g dried cranberries
75g white chocolate, chopped
75g digestive biscuits, crushed
200g mini white marshmallows
100g white chocolate, melted for drizzling

Method >
Place the dark chocolate, condensed milk, Baileys and butter into a large bowl.

Melt in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water.
Beat until smooth then cool slightly, then stir in the cranberries, white chocolate, digestive biscuits and finally the marshmallows.
Line a Swiss roll tin with the baking parchment, and press the mixture into the tin.
Cover and chill well and leave to set.
Drizzle with melted white chocolate, then cut into thick fingers and serve.

Makes: 6 slices.

Festive Christmas recipes > Deep fried rice cakes

Ingredients >
425g/15oz potatoes, peeled
90g/3¼oz long grain rice
2 tbsp olive oil
2 small onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
900g/2lb fresh spinach leaves
140g/5oz dry breadcrumbs
55g/2oz plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
Small bunch of mixed fresh herbs – parsley, chives, chervil, basil and oregano
300ml/½ pint mayonnaise
Vegetable oil, for deep frying
25g/1oz butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method >
Cut potatoes into even-sized pieces and cook in a pan of boiling water until tender. Drain and allow to cool.

Cook rice according to packet instructions.

Heat olive oil in a frying pan.
Add chopped onions and garlic and cook gently for a few minutes to soften, but do not allow to brown. Add the chopped basil and cook for a further 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Pick through the spinach and remove and discard any damaged leaves and all the stalks.
Wash the remaining leaves in several changes of cold water. Plunge the washed leaves into a pan of boiling salted water and blanch for about 2-3 minutes. Drain leaves, then refresh in a bowl of iced water.
Drain again, then squeeze spinach to remove any water.

Mash the potatoes in a bowl (do not add any milk or butter), then add onion mixture and cooked rice and mix together.
If the mixture is soft, add some of the breadcrumbs to ‘tighten it up’, otherwise the ricecakes may fall apart during deep frying.
Taste to check the seasoning.

Divide the mixture into 4 large (or 8 smaller) balls, then shape into round, flat cakes.
Dust rice cakes in flour, dip in beaten egg then coat in the remaining breadcrumbs. Chill for about one hour.

Remove the leaves from the herbs and wash well.
Dry in a salad spinner, or using kitchen paper, then chop finely. Stir chopped herbs into mayonnaise – this will give you a lovely green mayonnaise.

Fill a deep pan one third full with vegetable oil (or use a deep fat fryer) and heat oil to 160°C (325°F).
Deep fry rice cakes in batches for 3-4 minutes, or until heated through, golden and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper and keep warm whilst you cook the remaining cakes.

Heat butter in a pan, add spinach and warm through gently. Season. Pile the spinach onto plates, top with ricecakes and spoon over some of the mayonnaise. Serve straight away.

Serves: 4.

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