Monday, December 19, 2011

Festive facts for the holidays

The winter holiday season often means travel, shopping, and eating...
Here are the numbers behind the holidays:

Types of Christmas trees
purchased in 2011, based on data
from the Christmas Tree Association
and author's calculations
Americans will purchase 34.5 million Christmas trees this year. More than one third of those trees will be artificial, according to a survey conducted by Nielsen for the American Christmas Tree Association.

The survey "also found 11 percent of U.S. households who will display a real tree will also display an artificial tree, recognizing a growing trend toward celebrating Christmas with more than one Christmas tree."

The U.S. also produces $1.5 billion worth of candles each year. Those candles come in handy for Hanukkan, Kwanzaa, and Christmas celebrations.

New Orleans Holiday Travel (author's photo)
91.9 million Americans (about one third of the total US population) will travel at least 50 miles from home over the winter holiday season (Dec 23 - Jan 2). This represents a 1.4 percent increase in total holiday travel, compared with 2010, according to an annual report released by AAA.

Auto travel accounts for the lion's share (90 percent) of those trips. Despite notoriously long lines at the airport, only 8 percent of holiday travelers plan to fly, and the remaining 2 percent will travel via train, bus, or other mode.

About half of long-distance travelers (those going 50 miles or more) will make a day trip of it. Travelers who plan to stay overnight at their destinations will spend an average of four nights away from home.

Most retail stores do the bulk of their yearly business in December. For retail stores overall, 14 percent of annual sales occur in the last month of the year. For jewelry stores, December makes up 20 percent of annual sales.

Total retail sales for the holiday season are expected to reach nearly $470 billion. And for those who want to avoid the malls, $34 billion of December 2010 retail sales were online or mail-order.

Photo courtesy of State Library and Archives of Florida
$2.5 billion worth of toys (including stuffed toys, dolls, puzzles, and electric trains) were imported to the U.S. from China between January and September 2011. China also leads the pack in U.S. imports of ice skates ($17.7 million) and basketballs ($38.9 million).

Within the U.S. there are about 8,000 workers across 579 locations that primarily manufacture toys and games. Is it any surprise that Santa needs 8,000 helpers?

If you're making latkes for Hanukkah, chances are the potatoes come from Idaho or Washington. 50 percent of the nation's 'taters were grown in those two states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

U.S. farmers produced 2.01 billion bushels of wheat - crucial for making Christmas cookies - in 2011. Kansas, Montana and North Dakota accounted for about a third of the nation's wheat production.

But while Americans eat plenty of cookies, you might as well hold the eggnog. Nationwide consumption averages only half a cup per capita, according to figures from Indiana University.

Candy canes might be a holiday staple, but chocolate is a nearly universal gift. The winter holidays represent the biggest boxed chocolate selling season as 70 percent of adults in the U.S. give or receive a box of chocolates during the holidays.

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