by Janet Spencer

Polls show that 93% of Americans celebrate Christmas, even if they’re not religious. Whether or not you’re among the majority, you’ll be interested to read the following odd and obscure facts about the holiday.

CHRISTMAS FACTS

Between 25 and 30 million real Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. each year, with Oregon being the top producer. About    92%    of the Christmas trees cut in Oregon are exported to other states. Nearly half of all American households purchase a real tree, and the average price is about $80. The average price for an artificial tree is $120.

• China is the top producer of artificial trees. Some factories that make fake Christmas trees also produce toilet brushes.

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• Artificial trees have out-sold natural ones every year since 1991.

• The average American spends over $1,000 on the holiday, including gifts, travel, food, decorations, donations, etc.

• Christmas became a federal holiday in 1970.

• The Dutch patronized St. Nicholas, but they spelled it “Sint Nikolass” which evolved to “Sinterklass” and then became Santa Claus. Kriss Kringle comes from the German word “Christkindl” meaning Christ child.

Around 40 percent of holiday sales occur the week before Christmas, with the two busiest shopping days of the year consistently being the Saturday and Sunday before Christmas.

• 66% of ties are sold at Christmas. Most of the rest are sold at Father’s Day.

• Nearly a third of all retail sales in the U.S. happen in the month of December.

• Women spend an average of 20 hours shopping for Christmas presents, while men report spending half that much time.

• Nearly 2 billion candy canes are made each year, with 90 percent sold between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The week after Thanksgiving is the top week for candy cane sales because they are used as decorations on Christmas trees. Candy canes are the top-selling non-chocolate candy in December.

• Pastry chef Alain Roby created a 51-foot-long (15 m) candy cane in Geneva, Illinois, in 2012, weighing over 900 pounds (408 kg). It was broken into pieces and given away.

• Joel Poinsett was a diplomat from South Carolina in the early 1800s. While serving in Mexico, he collected specimens of a wild shrub and shipped them back to America, where they became known as poinsettias.

• The 1958 song “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” featured Brenda Lee on vocals. She was only 13 years old when she recorded the tune. By then she was already a seasoned performer, having been celebrated as a child prodigy. The song, written by Johnny Marks, eventually became the biggest hit song of her career. Lee’s streak of nine Top Ten Billboard hits in the 1960s set a record for a Female Solo Artist that wasn’t equaled until 1986 with Madonna. Johnny Marks went on to pen other Christmas hits, including “Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.”

Jimmy Boyd was 13 when he recorded the novelty song “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in 1952 for Columbia Records. It sold 2.5 million copies in the first week alone. Church leaders in Boston tried to ban the song saying that Christmas is supposed to be a holiday of purity and the song implies intimacy. The controversy settled when Boyd appeared before church leaders to discuss the content and meaning of the lyrics.

• The most-hated Christmas song of all time, according to a 2020 survey, is “Santa Baby” recorded by Eartha Kitt in 1953, in which she extorts Santa to bring her luxury goods. Eartha also played the part of the original Catwoman in the 1967 season of “Batman.”

• Noted songwriter Johnny Marks wrote the music for “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (a hit for Gene Autry) as well as “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” (a gold record for Brenda Lee), “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (sung by Bing Crosby), and “A Holly Jolly Christmas,” a Burl Ives recording which sold 8,000,000 copies. Johnny Marks was Jewish and never celebrated Christmas.

• The 1946 film “It’s a Wonderful Life” bombed at the box office. When the copyright expired in 1974, interest in the film had been so flat that the studio neglected to renew it. Therefore, television networks were allowed to air it for free, and found it perfectly suitable for showing throughout the holiday season. It quickly became a classic and was ranked the #1 Most Inspirational Film by the American Film Institute. It was Donna Reed’s first starring role.

• The 2018 computer-animated film “The Grinch” is the highest-grossing Christmas movie ever, edging out “Home Alone.” However, there is some controversy over whether or not “Home Alone” qualifies as a Christmas movie, or if it is just a movie that takes place at Christmas time. 

Most of Hallmark’s sappy holiday films are created in a single month of filming, with many requiring only two weeks to shoot. The majority are filmed in Canada due to tax breaks, particularly in Vancouver.    In 2020 alone, Hallmark churned out 40 holiday films.

• The world’s tallest Christmas tree was a freshly cut Douglas fir, standing 221 feet (67m) tall. Remember that the Statue of Liberty is 151 feet (46m) tall, from her toes to the tip of her torch. The tree was displayed at a shopping plaza in Seattle, WA, in 1950.

• Holly is associated with Christmas because the pointed leaves symbolize the thorns in Christ’s crown and the red berries symbolize drops of blood.

• The largest gathering of people wearing Christmas sweaters happened in Lawrence, Kansas, on December 19, 2015, when 3,473 people showed up to a football game clad in holiday sweaters. All the spectators, the marching band, and the team’s staff wore sweaters as Kansas played against Montana. Santa, his reindeer, and various snowmen also showed up for the game. Kansas won.

• The world’s largest gingerbread house was about the size of a typical 4-bedroom, 2-bath house, measuring just over 2,500 square feet of floor space. Built by Texas A&M students in Bryan, Texas in November 2013, the house was erected on a nearby golf course. Construction materials included 1,800 lbs of butter, 7,200 eggs, 7,200 lbs of flour, and nearly 3,000 lbs of brown sugar. It was decorated with over 22,000 pieces of candy. It was estimated that the house consisted of around 3.5 million calories. The cost to tour the remarkable facility and meet Santa was $3. Over $150,000 was raised and donated towards the construction of a new trauma center for the local children’s hospital. The house was dismantled after two weeks and the edible parts were donated to local food banks.