Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, everyone took a deep breath and reached for the aspirin bottle. Whew! Having fun is hard work. By this time on Sunday Christmas will be nothing but a dot in our rear view mirrors. So much preparation and it's gone faster than a snowflake on a griddle.


In many ways Christmas is a numbers game, everything from how many relatives will show up for dinner to what the final credit card tally will be. It turns out the holiday reveals some interesting digits. (You'll have to assume I got these statistics from legit sources because I don't want to litter this column with website addresses. This is column number 625, so I hope that earns me a modicum of trust.)


Many reports tell us that shopping is the biggest source of holiday stress. That might be due to the price tag. Americans are planning to spend an average of $935 during the holiday shopping season this year. A First Insight consumer survey found twenty-three percent of consumers will travel more than 100 miles to get a 50 percent off deal.


A recent survey by, revealed that the hardest person to shop for is your significant other. “Men have the least clue about what to buy their significant other—42 percent of men said their significant other is hardest to shop for versus 27 percent of women who said their significant other is hardest to shop for.” This means that while the ladies in the audience are reading this right now, chances are their menfolk are wandering around Cadillac's stores with befuddled looks on their faces.


For the guys still looking for gifts, that same survey noted that socks are the most dreaded gift to receive. Splender also asked respondents to list the worst gifts they ever received. The list included: a plunger, matching sweatshirts for siblings, a case of motor oil, a stun gun, a 6-pack of glue, a 3-pack of toothpaste, pot holders, cat litter, a meat-scented candle, a broom, and a jar of mayonnaise.


Shopping stress even includes animals. Sixty-six percent of of dog and cat owners will fill a Christmas stocking for their pets. According to the American Pet Products Association, nearly 80 million families in the U.S. own a pet. That's a lot of chewy bones and squeaky toys.


Well, at least no one is obligated to buy all the presents mentioned in the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” which comes out to 364 gifts. However, if you did buy LEGOs you were not alone. During the Christmas season, nearly 28 sets of LEGOs are sold every second.


All those presents go under a Christmas tree at some point. The National Christmas Tree Association says last year 25.9 million real trees were sold to the tune of $1.32 billion dollars. Fake trees were about half as popular with 12.5 million sold for a total of $854 million.


Santa has a tall task getting all those presents under all those trees. “According to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), there are 2,106 million children under age 18 in the world. If there are on average 2.5 children per household, Santa would have to make 842 million stops on Christmas Eve, traveling 221 million miles. To reach all 842 million stops, Santa would need to travel between houses in 2/10,000 second, which means he would need to accelerate 12.19 million miles (20.5 billion meters) per second on each stop. The force of this acceleration would reduce Santa to chunky salsa.”


He does have Rudolph to guide the way though. That red nose is a beacon, right? Apparently, having a red nose has its downside. “Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.”


All this stress is enough to drive a person (or elf) to partake of adult beverages. In the week leading up to Christmas, wine sales increase 57 percent according to Nielsen data. A Time Magazine report added more top drinking holidays to the mix: the 4th of July, Cinco De Mayo, Thanksgiving Eve (referred to as Blackout Wednesday), and New Year’s Eve.


As if all this is not enough to boggle you mind, people who are traveling this holiday and who may be renting a car have even more to stress them out. A USA Today article warned: “Smart systems installed in vehicles provide a new way for hackers to steal information or install dangerous software on your phone. A malicious application could theoretically be installed that would automatically tamper with any mobile devices that were connected to the vehicle."


The article went on. “Cars are essentially computers on wheels, says John Michelsen, chief product officer at Zimperium, an enterprise mobile security company. Consider the Ford F-150, whose onboard computer system has 150 million lines of code. That's more programming than a Boeing 787, which has 7 million lines of code. You don't know what the computer will do with the data you shared once you return the car to the lot, and chances are, neither does the car rental company.”


With all that said, my guess is that very few of us would trade our holiday experiences for something less. We grouse, but deep down we love it. So, from the Neff Zone: “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.”


Jim Neff is a local columnist. Read Neff Zone columns online at and