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.

Light a Hanukkah candle website is online > Updated

Posted On December 14, 2009

Filed under Travel MiddleEast
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Please Note > this post has been moved to our Festive Spirit blog and you can access it along with many other related posts at >


Festive food for Hanukkah celebrations > Updated

Please Note > this post has been moved to our Festive Spirit blog, you can access it along with many other related posts at >


Cook for Hanukkah > Updated

Please Note > this post has been moved to our Festive Spirit blog, and you can access it along with many other related posts at >


Festive Trivia > check it now!

It doesn’t matter if you’ve been naughty or nice, just take this quiz and check it twice.

1. What is Santa Claus’ name in Italy?
 A. Pere Noel
 B. Kanakaloka
 C. Babbo Natale
 D. Ded Moroz

2. Which holiday is known as the Festival of Lights?
 A. Christmas
 B. Winter solstice
 C. St. Lucia Day
 D. Hanukkah

3. Jim sold his watch so that he could buy Della what in “The Gift of the Magi?”
 A. Set of combs
 B. Diamond ring
 C. Earrings
 D. Puppy

4. In what year was Kwanzaa founded?
 A. 1965
 B. 1966
 C. 1975
 D. 1976

5. Who sings “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?”
 A. Elmo & Patsy
 B. Adam Sandler
 C. Al Yankovic
 D. Elvis

6. What is the name of The Grinch’s dog?
 A. Spot
 B. Max
 C. Crunch
 D. Fluffy

7. Why can’t Ralphie have a Red Ryder BB gun in “A Christmas Story?”
 A. He’ll shoot his eye out.
 B. Randy would be jealous.
 C. It’s too expensive.
 D. He’s getting a decoder ring instead.

8. In “Christmas Vacation,” what does Clark receive in place of his Christmas bonus?
 A. A promotion
 B. An invitation to the holiday party
 C. A knitted sweater
 D. Enrollment in the “Jelly of the Month” club

9. Who directed “Home for the Holidays?”
 A. John Hughes
 B. Holly Hunter
 C. Jodie Foster
 D. Ron Howard

10. What year were electric tree lights introduced as an alternative to candles?
 A. 1880
 B. 1881
 C. 1882
 D. 1883

11. What do The Chipmunks want for Christmas?
 A. Red Ryder BB gun
 B. Recording contract
 C. Two front teeth
 D. Lots of nuts

12. Which character does Kevin Pollack play in “The Santa Clause 2?”
 A. Santa Claus
 B. Father Time
 C. Tooth Fairy
 D. Cupid

13. Who wrote “The Nutcracker?”
 A. E.T.A. Hoffmann
 B. J.R.R. Tolkein
 C. Maurice Sendak
 D. A.A. Milne

14. In what department store did David Sedaris work as an elf in “Santa Land Diaries?”
 A. Bloomingdale’s
 B. Alexander’s
 C. Lord & Taylor
 D. Macy’s

15. According to Dutch tradition, how does Sinterklaas deliver gifts?
 A. He delivers by horse-drawn carriage.
 B. He rides in a sleigh and flies to all the houses.
 C. He sends out a UPS truck on Christmas Eve.
 D. He travels by ship on Dec. 6th.

16. How many ghosts are there in “A Christmas Carol?”
 A. 1
 B. 2
 C. 3
 D. 4

17. Which of the following is not a principle of Kwanzaa?
 A. Unity
 B. Creativity
 C. Responsibility
 D. Honesty

18. Which reindeer is not mentioned in the poem “The Night Before Christmas?”
 A. Cupid
 B. Rudolph
 C. Vixen
 D. Blitzen

19. For how many characters does Adam Sandler provide the voice in “8 Crazy Nights?”
 A. 0
 B. 2
 C. 3
 D. 4

20. Instead of putting out cookies and milk for Santa, what do German children do?
 A. Leave out shoes to be filled with candy
 B. Leave a present under the tree for Santa
 C. Put out carrots for the reindeers
 D. Write a thank you note to Santa for the gifts

Taking the Christ out of Christmas?

The missing Nativity scene from Nicosia’s Eleftheria Square aroused my suspicions that the War on Christmas might finally have reached our gloriously un-politically correct utopian backwater.

I began to survey the decorations and shop windows around town looking for signs that Christmas was being neutralised. Everything seemed normal, and the huge ‘Merry Christmas’ lights across the square were intact, but I was curious about the manger.

Nicos Karanikis from the Nicosia Municipality, however, assured us that the nativity scene still existed, but had been moved to the moat due to lack of space in the square. He was adamant the move had nothing to do with political correctness.

“We don’t suffer from that sickness yet,” he said.

Next it was time to check out the Christmas cards that were coming in, and to see what organisations and companies had decided to take Christ out of Christmas this year.

The card from the EU delegation was the least Christmassy. Depicting the Treaty of Rome anniversary message “Together since 1957”, the card simply said “Season’s Greetings” in all of the EU languages. “We must not imply anything religious on cards,” said a spokesman at the delegation. “There is a certain policy not to offend or show any religious leanings.”

A similar message came from the UN, understandable given its mandate. “The UN is non-denominational when it comes to greetings, which is related to the partiality of the UN,” said spokesman Brian Kelly.

Asked if there was any policy advice to local missions given that staff are usually of mixed nationalities and faiths, Kelly said he had not seen any nativity scenes in UNFICYP offices, but he had seen lots of Christmas trees. “A lot of Turkish Cypriots have a UK background so Christmas for them is part of the calendar,” he said.

The US Embassy said it didn’t have a secular policy as such, but had nevertheless always sent out cards saying “Happy New Year”. Staff are allowed to have decorations in their offices, a spokesman said.

The British bases, which also have mixed staff, say they are a little behind the UK when it comes to political correctness. “We still say Christmas greetings. We don’t try to be PC, but we respect the multicultural society in which we live,” said spokesman Dennis Barnes. He said the Turkish Cypriots who work in Dhekelia don’t have any problems and make no demands. “It’s still little England here where Christmas is still Christmas,” Barnes added.

Similarly, the British High Commission was not playing the PC card… literally, as a card depicting the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus arrived. “There is no policy,” said spokesman Nigel Boud. “Our Foreign Office cards are overtly Christian and we don’t have any problems. We have non-Christian staff at the High Commission and their religious festivals are marked and celebrated and respected. I think the whole thing is exaggerated and the incidents are isolated incidents. Christmas is a Christian festival. It should be possible to celebrate it without anyone getting offended.”

The Israeli Embassy agreed. A spokesman said the embassy had held a small ceremony earlier in the week to celebrate Hanukkah. “Jewish people do not take exception to Christmas, although we are careful with the greeting cards we send since we don’t have Christmas,” said the spokesman. “The cards focus on happy new year or season’s greetings but we are not ultra sensitive. Lots of people send us Christmas cards and we are not offended. You have to be practical as well. Some people don’t know about Hanukkah. Sometimes the EU or US or the UK go too far with political correctness at this time of the year. They’ve taken the spirit out of Christmas.”

But one multinational company on the island said staff were told to be careful when choosing what cards to send locally. One option they were offered by the company “was not remotely related to Christmas” an employee said.

Sociologist Antonis Rafits said when people start being offended “we get into the realm of religious prejudice, which is not a good idea”. “Minority groups have the right not to celebrate but they should not be allowed to go against those who believe in Christmas,” he added.

Raftis said he did not agree with any policy that prevented a person of one faith from displaying their religious symbols in order to appease another. “But I don’t think this is too much of an issue in Cyprus,” he said.

The Reverend Steve Collis from St Paul’s Anglican Church said that in some instances Christians were trying hard to be reasonable when those from other faiths became offended. “A lot of people are looking to appease Islamic nations. I feel personally it’s gone too far because I have had Muslim friends sending me Christmas cards. They think we are being unwise. I feel very strongly we should show concern for others but there are some others that are trying to take it all away and neutralise Christmas,” he said.

The Reverend Collis said that instead of trying to take Christ out of Christmas, other faiths should be invited to join in. “What is going on is more of a political concern. Instead of taking Christ out of Christmas they should take politics out of Christmas,” he said.

Hanukkah market

The Jewish Museum in Berlin is hosting a Hanukkah celebration through the end of the year with a Hanukkah market in the museum garden.

The market will feature kosher mulled wine, holiday food specialties and traditional and kitsch Hanukkah products from Germany, Israel and the United States.

The market also has a special exhibition called “Chrismukkah: Stories of Christmas and Hanukkah.” It looks at the similarities and differences between the two celebrations. The eight-day Jewish festival honors the reopening of the temple in Jerusalem, while Christmas observes the birth of Jesus.

The market is open daily (except December 24) from midday to 6 p.m. Details at 

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