- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 11, 2003

The holiday season might overwhelm most of us, but it does not overwhelm the U.S. Census Bureau, which issued its annual statistical analysis of Christmastime yesterday.

There is, for example, just one spot in America named “Christmas,” the bureau notes, and that is the unincorporated town of Christmas, Fla., population 1,162.

But wait.

There’s also a North Pole, Alaska (population 1,618); Santa Claus, Ind. (2,129); Santa Claus, Ga. (238); Noel, Mo. (1,446); and the wee village of Rudolph, Wis. (415).

Then there’s the money stuff.

The nation’s Christmas tree farmers sold $466 million worth of Christmas trees last year, with the tree farmers in Oregon pocketing $160 million of it, “making the Beaver State the nation’s Christmas tree capital,” the bureau noted in its report, followed by North Carolina, Washington, Michigan and Ohio.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are making quite a tidy sum from sentimental Americans eager to buy tree ornaments. China sold us $971 million of tinsel, balls, lights, geegaws and other holiday goodies — not to mention $820 million worth of stuffed toys — between January and September this year.

“Similarly, China was the leading foreign source of artificial Christmas trees shipped to the United States ($93 million worth),” the report said.

This fact caused a ruckus in the Texas state Legislature last week after unwitting technicians erected a big artificial tree from China in the capitol rotunda, prompting irked lawmakers to cry foul and demand a Texas-grown, natural Christmas tree.

But the bureau remains philosophical about it all.

“America presents a pretty fascinating mosaic of facts around Christmas, and it all reflects our culture at this moment,” said spokesman Robert Bernstein, who has compiled the sometimes quirky list of holiday minutia for the past five years.

But he is a busy man in other months.

Mr. Bernstein also assesses 18 other holidays, or “observances,” as the bureau prefers to call them.

Along with such standard celebrations as Valentine’s Day, July Fourth and Halloween, Mr. Bernstein also must dig up the data for Women’s History Month (March), Asian/Pacific-American Heritage Month and Older Americans Month (both in May), Hispanic Heritage Month (September) and American Indian/Alaska Native Heritage Month (November).

“Actually, it’s pretty remarkable what kind of statistics are out there year-round,” he observed. “There are unusually named towns, facts about seasonal employment, gift sales, sports and so forth. It’s all out there.”

But on to the nitty gritty of late December.

The bureau also has determined that eight spots around the country get more than 2 feet of snow each December: Valdez, Alaska; Mount Washington, N.H.; Blue Canyon, Calif.; Yakutat, Alaska; Sault Sainte Marie, Mich.; Marquette, Mich.; Syracuse, N.Y.; and Muskegon, Mich.

Lest we overlook the inner mettle of Americans who prefer their sports frozen, the agency has also counted 7.4 million Alpine skiers, 6.7 million ice skaters, 2.3 million cross-country skiers, 1.9 million ice hockey players and 4.3 million who blast down the mountain on a snowboard.

Meanwhile, 179 businesses across the country manufacture $296 million worth of dolls and stuffed toys each year, employing 2,271 persons.

And some retailers do better than others during the holiday season.

Sales in the nation’s jewelry stores typically jump 163 percent in December. Bookstores shine, with an 87 percent jump, followed by sporting-goods stores (59 percent), electronics outlets (56 percent), department stores (49 percent) and clothing stores (44 percent).

But once again, the Chinese seem to dominate what’s under the Christmas tree.

The bureau also found that “China was the leading country of origin” for electric trains ($58 million); puzzles ($34 million); roller skates ($57 million); sports footwear ($157 million); golf equipment ($32 million); and basketballs ($35 million).

Canada, however, managed to sell us $15 million worth of ice skates.

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