Festive facts

A selection box of facts about Christmas.

A white Christmas?

2010 was the most recent white Christmas. It was a very unusual year, as there was snow on the ground at 83% of the Met Office’s stations – the highest proportion ever recorded. There was snow on the ground in 23 of the last 50 years, but white Christmases were more frequent in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Christmas costs

Retail spending is generally around 45-55% higher in December compared to monthly consumer spending in other months of the year, as reported by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

A ‘Yuletide price index’ devised by the Economist shows that although the cost of Christmas dinner has increased faster than wages over the past 25 years, household incomes growth has outstripped rises in the price of presents.

The Forestry Commission reports that around 6 million Christmas trees are sold in Britain each year.

Christmas cards – 170 years on

The first commercial Christmas card was commissioned by Henry Cole in 1843. He ordered 1,000 copies of the card which depicted a family enjoying a festive drink together. Those that he did not use he sold for sixpence each, which made them a luxury item.

Royal Mail identified residents in Liverpool, Warrington, Wigan and Crewe to be most enthusiastic about sending Christmas cards in 2012. These postcode areas saw the biggest percentage increase in December 2012 in numbers of cards and letters sent, compared with the month before.

Christmas message

Sitting down to watch the Queen’s Christmas message after lunch has become less popular. The Queen’s Christmas Message in 2012 (the first one to be broadcast in 3D) had 8.7 million viewers on all channels, compared with 28 million in 1987.

Christmas holidays

The Bank Holidays Act 1871 made “the twenty-sixth day of December, if a week day” a public holiday in England, Wales and Ireland; since Christmas Day was a traditional day of rest and Christian worship it was not deemed necessary to include it in the Act as a public holiday. The same Act also made Christmas Day and New Year’s Day public holidays in Scotland, if they were not Sundays.

The holidays fly by

In 2012, UK airports handled over 13 million passengers during the month of December. More than twice as many passengers travelled between the UK and Finland – where Lapland is located – than in the previous month.

Author: David Hough