Backstory: Counting on Christmas

Here's a yuletide yardstick of the 2006 season.

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From 25-year-old fruitcake to the new PlayStation 3, Americans celebrate the holidays in their own way. Here's a yuletide yardstick of the 2006 season.

Holiday spirit

87% – Americans who believe holidays should be more about family and caring for others, not giving and receiving gifts.

79% – Do not believe it's necessary to spend a lot of money in order to have a fulfilling and enjoyable holiday.

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Shopping

$457.4 billion – Expected holiday sales in 2006.

$435.6 billion – Holiday sales in 2005.

51.7 million – People who shopped online from work for holiday gifts in 2005.

60% –People who say they will spend about the same amount as they did last year.

23% – People who say they will spend less than last year.

16% – People who say they will spend more than last year.

$791 – Amount each consumer is expected to spend this year.

Of that...

$451.34 – Will be spent on family.

$99.22 – On himself or herself.

$85.60 – On friends.

$22.40 – On co-workers.

$44.52 – On people like clergy, teachers, and baby sitters.

$30.57 – On greeting cards and postage.

Hot items

55.2% – People who want books, CDs, DVDs, videos or video games as gifts.

53.3% – Want clothing or accessories.

52.8% – Want gift cards.

Top 2006 toys for boys – TMX Elmo, cars, PlayStation 3, video games, LEGOS, Nintendo DS, Hot Wheels, Xbox 360, remote-controlled cars, trucks.

Top 2006 toys for girls – Dolls, Bratz, TMX Elmo, Dora the Explorer, Disney Princess, iPod/MP3 players, Nintendo DS, PlayStation 3.

Nuttier than a...

47% – People who say they'd toss a holiday fruitcake in the trash without delay.

11% – People who say they would make time to regift a fruitcake.

1:1 – The ratio of the density of the average fruitcake to the density of mahogany.

25 – Number of years that fruitcakes can age and still be enjoyed, as long as they have the right preservatives and are stored in tightly closed tins.

2,952 – Pounds of fruitcake delivered to US troops in Iraq for the holidays.

Ornamentation

$15.8 billion – Amount spent on new holiday decorations in 2005.

Top decorations – Candles, party paraphernalia, garlands, roping, swags, ribbons, poinsettias, Christmas tree ornaments.

Scotch pine vs. Scotch plastic

32.8 million – Real Christmas trees sold in 2005.

9.3 million – Artificial ones sold in 2005.

$41.90 – Average cost of a real Christmas tree in 2005.

$72.20 – Average cost of an artificial Christmas tree in 2005.

22 million – Households that do not plan to have a Christmas tree this year.

7 – Years required to grow a tree to a retail height of 6 to 7 feet.

Top-selling trees – Balsam fir, Douglas fir, Fraser fir, noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, and white pine.

$485 million – US farmers' tree-sale revenue in 2005.

$126 million – Tree sales in Oregon in 2005, top-grossing state (followed by North Carolina, Washington, and Michigan).

221 feet – The tallest Christmas tree, a Douglas fir erected at Northgate Shopping Center in Seattle, Wash., in 1950.

The China connection

$1.2 billion – Value of Christmas ornaments imported from China in 2005 – America's No. 1 foreign supplier.

$39 million – Value of imported Chinese nativity scenes and figures in 2005.

$160 million – Value of artificial Christmas trees from China last year.

Charity

87% – People who donated money to a charity in 2005 (religious or nonreligious).

62% – People who donated their time to a charity in 2005 (religious or nonreligious).

11,000 – Christmas trees to be donated to US troops and their families by tree growers this year.

50% – Yearly charitable donations made between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

84% – Malls that will hold charity events. Toys for Tots and Giving Trees are the most popular charity events in malls.

$260 billion – Total charitable donations in 2005, up from $245 billion in 2004. About half of the increase was due to giving for one of three major natural disasters: tsunami in southern Asia, Gulf Coast hurricanes, and Pakistan's earthquake.

Where the money goes

$93.2 billion – Amount of donations given to religious organizations, the top recipient of aid.

$38.6 billion – Amount donated to education, the second largest sector.

Decking the White House

18 ft., 6 in. – Height of the White House Christmas tree.

17 – Number of decorated trees in the White House.

1,089 – Feet of garland strung throughout the first mansion.

4,638 – Red ornament balls.

269 – Wreaths in the White House.

Even more Christmas numbers

36 million – Estimated number of real Christmas trees to be sold in 2006

46 million – Households that plan to use an artificial tree this year

55% – Consider shopping for presents more of a joyful experience than a chore

40% – Consider it more of a chore

$260 billion – charitable donations in all of 2005

$245 billion – charitable donations in all of 2004

$791 – Amount the average consumer is expected to spend this year

$738 – Amount consumer spent in the 2005 holiday season

47% – Consumers predicted to shop online this holiday season

Dec. 19 – Busiest mailing day, with twice the average volume

Dec. 21 – Busiest delivery day of the year

Sources: Center for a New American Dream, BIGResearch, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Harper's Index, The Joy of Cooking, Department of Defense, Unity Marketing, National Christmas Tree Association, USDA Economic Research Service, Guinness Book of World Records 2006, US Census, US Department of Commerce, Charity Navigator, Giving Institute, The White House, Gallup, US Postal Service.

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