We're sneaking up on Christmas and there are seemingly a million things yet to do. Most of these odds and ends are small, but they can drive you to distraction unless they are checked off your to-do list. Here in the Neff Zone, that list consists of informational tidbits. 


Christmas lights help make the holidays festive, so did a study to determine the cost of running those lights. “We analyzed each state’s estimated cost of powering Christmas lights, We first took each state’s average house footage and electricity rate, and then researched the most common decorations used by American households. The price associated with each state is the total cost to power lights from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day. The national average cost of running Christmas lights in 2022 is $16.48.”


The five most costly states topped that average by quite a bit:  Hawaii ($38.46), New Hampshire ($27.85), California ($27.65), Massachusetts ($27.03), and Connecticut ($27.01).


The cheapest states included: Washington ($10.51), Idaho ($10.91), Oregon ($11.75), Nebraska ($11.89), and North Carolina ($12.57). Michigan posted a respectable $15.05. (


Everyone enjoys a white Christmas and that snowfall consists of snowflakes. According to the Library of Congress, there is now a scientific consensus that the “likelihood of two large snow crystals being identical is zero.” The key word is “large.” Smaller flakes sometimes are similar in appearance.  


“The probability that two snow flakes will be exactly alike in molecular structure and in appearance is very minute. And to prove otherwise would not be easy. Each winter there are about 1 septillion (1, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000, 000 or a trillion trillion) snow crystals that drop from the sky.” (


Every kidling wants to find a special toy under the tree on Christmas morning. That scenario has not changed over the years. says: “We searched for toys from 1920 to today that caught hold of the public zeitgeist through novelty, innovation, kitsch, quirk, or simply great timing, and then rocketed to success.” 


They compiled a list of the top holiday toys from the year you were born. In 1920, the top seller was the Raggedy Ann doll for one dollar. Last year it was the reversible octopus plushie retailing for fifteen dollars. Find the toy popular when you were born at:


As a side note, check out 1965. The top toy was the Frisbee with a cost of seventy-nine cents. What makes this significant is an announcement last week in Grand Rapids. “Davenport University is launching a competitive ultimate Frisbee program next fall, with scholarships available for student-athletes who bring their talent to the team. Davenport’s new men’s and women’s ultimate Frisbee teams will begin competition in fall 2023 and will be funded by the university’s athletic department. Davenport is the first university in the state to have a fully funded ultimate Frisbee program available for students.”



For decades, one of the most popular toys in the entire world has been LEGO. However, the economics of LEGO might surprise you. The Toy Zone reports: “LEGO tells a tiny tale about world economics. The price of LEGO differs depending on the country where you shop. In fact, TheToyZone found a 744 percent difference between the average price of (a typical set) of LEGO in the most and least expensive markets. ”We researched the prices of eight popular LEGO sets in marketplaces across roughly 200 countries where new LEGO sets are sold and totaled up the average price for each territory.” (


For comparison, in the United States the average LEGO set costs $349. “The cheapest place in the world to buy LEGO is Belgium at $269. The most expensive LEGO on Earth is in Argentina at $2,270. In South America, LEGO costs over five times as much in Argentina ($2,270) as it does in Paraguay ($429).


On a blustery day there's nothing quite so comforting as a steaming cup of hot chocolate. But wait! The Food Channel suggests there are more things you can do with that hot chocolate mix. “Store-bought hot cocoa powder can make more than just a hot holiday drink.”


They offer photos, descriptions, and recipes for six different holiday delights. These are (hot chocolate): brownies, cheesecake, marble pound cake, pancakes, pudding, and sugar cookie sandwiches. This time around, I volunteer to go first while you hold my beverage. (


Singing Christmas songs is pretty common activity, but what is perhaps the most famous song has a somewhat convoluted history. “It’s regarded as one of the best Christmas songs of all time, but 'Jingle Bells' wasn’t actually written to be a Christmas song at all. 'Jingle Bells,' was originally written to be sung during Thanksgiving celebrations, or even as a drinking song.” 

Not only that, the song was first played on a banjo. “Records show that the first ever recording of 'Jingle Bells' was by a banjo player called Will Lyle, who made an instrumental recording of the song on an Edison wax cylinder, in 1889. Though giving 'Jingle Bells' the distinction of being the first Christmas song ever recorded, copies of Lyle’s version have long since been lost.” The whole odd history of “Jingle Bells” is at:


Luckily, no such mystery surrounds what is considered the first rock and roll Christmas song, “Jingle Bell Rock,” recorded by Bobby Helms in 1957. You can hear it and see old films of Helms performing the song at:


Finally, check out the Neff Zone holidays page at: Now might be a good time to practice how to give holiday greetings in several languages. “Hyvaa Joulua” to you.


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