12/16/2014 04:10 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Christmas Tip Sheet for Journalists


By now, with Christmas only nine days away, many are probably rushing to do their last-minute shopping, baking the last batch of cookies, feeling stressed by too many annoying Christmas songs and commercials blasting out of the airwaves, all while dashing through the snow on our one-horse open sleigh.

No wonder we often lose the true meaning of Christmas.

For those still in throes of meeting fast-approaching deadlines, I thought I would offer a Christmas tip sheet

Happy holidays!
Bill Lucey

Christmas Fast Facts:

National Christmas Tree Association
There are approximately 25-30 million Real Christmas Trees sold in the U.S. every year.
There are close to 350 million Real Christmas Trees currently growing on Christmas Tree farms in the U.S. alone, all planted by farmers.
• There are more than 4,000 local Christmas Tree recycling programs throughout the United States.
• It can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree of typical height (6 - 7 feet) or as little as 4 years, but the average growing time is 7 years.
The top Christmas tree producing states are Oregon, North Carolina, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Washington.

National Retail Federation

According to NRF's Gift Card Spending Survey, the average person buying gift cards will spend $172.74, up from $163.16 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $31.74 billion.
• The survey found one in five parents (20%) this holiday season plan to buy Disney's Frozen merchandise for the little girls in their life, beating out the top reigning Barbie (16.8%) for the first time in the survey's 11-year history. LEGO toys are number one again for boys this year (14.2%).
• According to NRF's 2014 holiday consumer survey, 42 percent of shoppers plan to buy toys as gifts this holiday season. For girls, dolls hold the top spots at two (Barbie), three (generic), four (Monster High Dolls) and five (American Girl), while boys have made it clear they still want cars and trucks (#2).
• According to, This year, 56 percent of holiday shoppers expect to do at least some part of their holiday shopping online and online holiday shoppers plan to spend 16% more than all holiday shoppers on gifts, decorations and food for the holidays.
NRF's survey, conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, found the average person celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa and/or Hanukkah will spend $804.42, up nearly 5 percent over last year's actual $767.27. NRF and Prosper's spending survey is now in its 13th year.
• The survey found consumers will spend an average of $459.87 on gifts for their family, up 6.5 percent from $432.00 last year, and $80.00 on gifts for friends, up from $75.00 last year.


• Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organization for the leading U.S. airlines projects 45 million customers will fly on U.S. airlines during the 19-day period from Wednesday, Dec. 17 through Sunday, Jan. 4, an increase of approximately 2 percent or 47,000 daily travelers. Last year, 44 million customers were estimated to have traveled by air.
• Planes are projected to be 80 percent to 90 percent full over the winter holiday period, with the busiest travel day expected to be Friday, Dec. 19. The lightest travel days are expected to be Wednesday, Dec. 24; Thursday, Dec. 25; Wednesday, Dec. 31; and Thursday, Jan. 1. Passenger volumes are expected to range from 2 million to 2.5 million during the 19-day period, an increase of approximately 10 percent over the average day in 2014.
AAA projects 98.6 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the year-end holiday season, an increase of four percent from the 94.8 million people who traveled last year.

U.S. Census Bureau:

• The value of U.S. imports of Christmas tree ornaments from China between January and September 2014 is 1.0 billion. 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 ($137.5 million worth) during the same period.
• Place names associated with the holiday season consist of a dozen places named Holly including Mount Holly, N.C. (population 13,904) and Holly Springs, Miss. (7,558). There is Snowflake, Ariz. (5,576), Santa Claus, Ind. (2,501), North Pole, Alaska (2,214), Noel, Mo. (1,809) and -- if you know about reindeer -- Dasher, Ga. (944) and the village of Rudolph, Wis. (436). There is also Santa Claus, Ga. (167).

Poll: Pew Research Center

A new Pew Research Center survey finds that 44% of Americans say Christian symbols like nativity scenes should be allowed on government property even if they are not accompanied by symbols from other religions.
• In total, 65% of U.S. adults believe that all of these aspects of the Christmas story - the virgin birth, the journey of the magi, the angel's announcement to the shepherds and the manger story - reflect events that actually happened.
Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults (73%) say they believe that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin. One-in-five do not believe in the virgin birth, and 6% say they don't know or decline to answer the question.

Salvation Army

In 2013, the Salvation Army raised $135.9 million through the Red Kettle campaign and helped 3.5 million people during the season.
• Christmas fundraising is responsible for approximately 35 percent of The Salvation Army's annual income.
• Every year, The Salvation Army provides care to nearly 30 million people, while feeding 60 million people every year.
The Salvation Army shelters nearly 10 million people of the nation's homeless, while providing clothing, furniture, and Christmas presents to nearly 20 million every year.

U.S. Postal Service
• The Postal Service is projecting more than 12.7 billion greeting cards and letters between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. 15.5 billion between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve.
• More than 640 million pieces of mail will be processed on Dec 15, the busiest mailing day.
Average daily volume is 523 million. During the holidays, it's 553 million.
About 3 million customers will skip the trip to the Post Office this year and use Click-N-Ship to mail packages - 10 percent more than last year.

National Fire Protection Association (NFPA.)
Between 2007-2011 (the most recent data available), U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 230 home fires that started with Christmas trees per year. These fires caused an average of 6 deaths, 22 injuries, and $18.3 million in direct property damage annually.
• On average, one of every 40 reported home fires that began with a Christmas tree resulted in a death, compared to an average of one death per 142 total reported home fires.
• Electrical problems were factors in one-third (32%0 of home Christmas tree structure fires.
• Fifty percent of home Christmas tree structure fires occurred on the 15 days from December 22 through January 5.
Origins of Christmas Traditions in the United States
• According to Dr. Bruce David Forbes Professor of Religious Studies Morningside College, ``The earliest known reference to observing the birth of Christ on December 25th is in the Roman Philocalian calendar of ad 354. Somewhat earlier, Christians in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire (later called Orthodox) had begun observing Epiphany on January 6, commemorating simultaneously Christ's birth, baptism and first miracle. Within a couple of centuries eastern and western Christians began to unite in celebrating the birth of Christ on December 25 and the coming of the magi/wise men on January 6.''
• In 1510, the first historical record of a decorated Christmas Tree comes from Riga, Latvia, where men of the local merchants' guild decorated a tree with artificial roses, danced around it in the marketplace and then set fire to it. The rose was used for many years and is considered to be a symbol for the Virgin Mary.
• The first use of the word ``carol'' in English denoted a round dance, from the old French carole and, before that, the ancient Greek choros. The first printed collection of carols came from the press of Wynkyn de Worde in 1521. It included the "Boar's Head Carol," a feasting song with roots in the Viking custom of sacrificing a swine to the god Frey.
On December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village in New York City, Professor Clement Clark Moore wrote a new poem for his six children about a jolly white-bearded man climbing down chimneys with a sack full of toys titled: "A Visit from St. Nicholas'', later changed to ``The Night Before Christmas." which included the famous line: 'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." The poem was first published in the Troy (New York) Sentinel on December 23, 1823.
• It is from the Dutch for Saint Nicholas (Sante Klaus) that we get Santa Claus, which grew in popularity in the United States during the 19th Century, particularly in New York State, where Dutch immigrants would put out their shoes to be filled by Santa Claus on the eve of St Nicholas' feast day: December 6th. Over time, this custom was moved to Christmas Eve.
• Poinsettia plants are named after Joel R. Poinsett, an American minister to Mexico, who brought the red-and-green plant from Mexico to the United States in 1828.
According to Daniel J. Foley, author of "The Christmas Tree," the first mention of a Christmas tree in a U.S. newspaper was from a York Pa. newspaper in 1830, when the Darcas Society of York published a notice inviting readers to an exhibition of decorated Christmas trees.
In 1836, Alabama became the first state to declare Christmas a legal holiday.
The first department store to feature a Santa Claus was in Philadelphia on December 24, 1841 at the J.W. Parkinson's store. The next Santa Claus wouldn't be spotted again until 1890, this time accompanied with his own white beard at the Boston Store in Brockton, Mass.
• When Charles Dickens published ``A Christmas Carol'' in 1843, it became an instant best-seller with six thousand copies selling out instantly. Since the book became so popular and heralded for sparking a Victorian interest in holiday celebrations and later hailed as a ``national institution'' and national benefit, the Dickens classic has spawned a number of motion picture adaptations, beginning with a silent film in 1901; in 1938, MGM released another version starring Reginald Owen. In 1951, Alistair Sim played Ebenezer Scrooge in a black and white version. Then in 1971, Sim played a voice-over for an animated film. Albert Finney starred as Scrooge in 1970; while George C. Scott played Scrooge in a made for television movie, ``A Christmas Carol'' in 1984. The Muppets also came out with a Christmas Carol in 1992. Most recently, Jim Carrey starred in an animated version of ``A Christmas Carol'' in 2009.
• In 1848, when the Royal Family were pictured in the Illustrated London News , along with five children with their parents and grandmother surrounding a fully decorated Christmas tree, the tradition began to take hold throughout Britain as a family custom.
• In 1850, Louis Prang arrived in the United States and quickly established a printing business. By 1870, the German immigrant owned an estimated two-thirds of the steam presses in America, having perfected the color printing process. After seeing how popular his greeting cards were becoming after distributing them at an international exposition in 1873, Prang introduced Christmas greeting cards to United States consumers, beginning in 1875. The cards were such an instant hit; he had difficulty keeping up with the demand.
1851, Mark Carr opened a retail Christmas Tree lot in New York City, the first in the United States.
1856: Franklin Pierce became the first U.S. President to decorate the White House Christmas Tree.
• Christmas trees had become popular in the decade before the war, and in the early 1860s, many families were beginning to decorate them. Illustrations from national weeklies helped popularize the practice by putting decorated table-top Christmas trees in their drawings.
• According to Robert C. Detweiler, a historian from California Polytechnic State University. ''During the Civil War, President Lincoln held Christmas parties, soldiers celebrated Christmas in their camps by decorating trees and singing hymns and songs, and people on the "home front" celebrated with prayers, carols, decorations, and feasts (not unlike today's popular celebrations). ''
• It was during the Civil War, when many of the Christmas songs we still cherish today, were first written and became popular, including "Christmas Bells," "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," "Jingle Bells," "We Three Kings of Orient Art," "Oh Come All Ye Faithful," "Up on the Housetop," and "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.
• In 1862, The editor of Harper's Weekly, Fletcher Harper, assigned Thomas Nast to draw a ``special Christmas picture' that would blend the holiday celebrations to the ongoing war efforts for the newspaper's front page. Nast, however, found himself struggling to come up with an appropriate picture until he settled on Santa Claus, dressed in a patriotic Stars and Stripes outfit, mixing with soldiers in camp and distributing Christmas gifts from his sleigh. The historic Christmas edition of Harper's Weekly hit the stands on January 3, 1863. Every year until he left Harper's Weekly in 1886, Nast would create an elaborate Christmas drawing.
On June 26, 1870, Christmas was declared a federal holiday in the United States.
In 1883, Sears, Roebuck & Company began offering the first artificial Christmas trees - 33 limbs for $.50 and 55 limbs for $1.00.
In 1891, Captain Joseph McFee in San Francisco set up the world's first Salvation Army kettle to collect money for charity during the Christmas season.
• In 1897, an 8 year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon, who lived at 115 West Ninety-Fifth Street in New York City, wrote a letter to her local newspaper, The New York Sun, asking if there really was a Santa Claus after some of her friends told her there is no such thing as Santa Claus. The editor, Francis B. Church, responded to her letter, which was published on September 21, 1897, with the heading: ``Yes Virginia There is a Santa Claus.''' Church wrote: `` Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age....No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.''
NOTE: The original response to O'Hanlon's letter went unsigned. It wasn't until his obituary was published in 1906, did readers learn that Mr. Church was the author of the reply. The ``Yes Virginia'' editorial was so popular, The Sun reprinted it every year until 1949.
On December 24, 1898, former editorial writer for the Philadelphia Record, Edgar Nash, writes an account of the origins of Christmas customs in The Saturday Evening Post where he worked as an associate editor.
• By 1900, one out of five Americans was estimated to own a Christmas tree.
In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge starts the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument.
In 1926, a giant sequoia in King's Canyon National Park was officially designated the nation's Christmas tree by President Coolidge. By the 1930s, the Christmas tree had become an integral part of the American celebration.
The First Rockefeller Christmas Tree in New York City first appeared in 1931; and the first tree lighting to be televised came in 1951 on the Kate Smith Show.
The First Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show was launched in 1933.
In 1939, Chicago retailer Montgomery Ward introduced Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.
• In 1942, Bing Crosby sings Irving Berlin's``White Christmas'' in the motion picture ``Holiday Inn. The song turned into a smash hit that year, where it spent 10 weeks in first place on the Lucky Strike Hit Parade. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the version sung by Bing Crosby is the best-selling single of all time, with estimated sales in excess of 50 million copies worldwide.
• Bob Hope's annual Christmas tours first began in 1948 when he traveled to Berlin to entertain GI's during the airlift. His last tour was in 1990 during Operation Desert Shield.
• In 1962, the first U.S. Christmas postage stamp was issued.
• In 1949, ``Rudolph-the Red Nosed-Reindeer'' is recorded by Gene Autry.
In 1966, The National Christmas Tree Association began its time-honored tradition of having the Grand Champion grower present a Christmas Tree to the First Lady for display in the Blue Room of the White House. That year, Howard Pierce of Black River Falls, Wisconsin, presented a tree to President Lyndon Johnson and First Lady Bird Johnson

-Bill Lucey
December 16, 2014

Source: Civil War Times Illustrated, Dec98, Vol. 37 Issue 6,, Antiques & Collecting Magazine December 1, 2008; British Heritage, Jan2009, Vol. 29 Issue 6, American History, December 1, 2006; AMERICAN PLACES by Jim Benes Christmas at Marshall Field's, Scrooge and Albert: Christmas in the 1840's by Christine Lalumia, History Today, December 1, 2001; ``The story of Christmas''. By: Murray, Colm, In Britain, Dec95, Vol. 5, Issue 12; ``Christmas in 19th-century America'' By: Restad, Penne. History Today, Dec95, Vol. 45 Issue 12,; WHY DO WE DO WHAT WE DO AT CHRISTMAS By: Edgar S Nash in the Saturday Evening Post, Nov/Dec93, Vol. 265 Issue 6, ``A Christmas Carol'' By: Thornton, Zita. Antiques & Collecting Magazine, Dec2005, Vol. 110 Issue 10, National Christmas Tree Association.

NOTE: This article originally appeared at