Cost of 12 Days of Christmas Up 4.8 Percent

One of the most widely recognized Christmas spending sprees in pop culture includes nearly two dozen birds. Sounds romantic, right?

The Twelve Days of Christmas is an English carol that names an ever-increasing list of lavish gifts to one’s true love — including six days of feathered creatures, yet only one day of jewelry — between Christmas Day on December 25 and Three Kings Day on January 6,

The earliest version appears to contain words of French origin but it was first found in print in the 1780 English children’s book “Mirth Without Mischief” and may have originated as a “memories and forfeits” game, in which a group of people took turns reciting the verses and adding lines to see who could remember the most items as the list grew.

The items in the song have no symbolic significance, although some Christian groups have conjured up a link between the number of each gift and a Christian symbol.

Courtesy of PNC Wealth Management

Since 1983, PNC Bank has been tallying the cost of purchasing all of the items in the song.
The PNC Christmas Price Index also compares the costs of the items through the years.

The total costs of all goods and services for the 2012 Christmas Price Index is $25,431, a 4.8 percent increase over last year.

If you bought the gifts online, you’d pay $40,440.

PNC also calculates the “True Cost of Christmas” by following each repetition of the song, for a total of 364 gifts. The total True Cost of Christmas this year is $107,300, a 6 percent increase over last year.

 

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sweets have been a part of festivities in civilizations throughout the world for centuries. Christmas cookies first became popular around the Middle Ages in Europe. The Germans used cookie cutters and molds to make gingerbread confections called Lebkuchen, in addition to enjoying buttery Spritz cookies. The Swedes made Papparkakor, made with ginger and black pepper. The Norwegians made krumkake, which are thin lemon and cardamom-scented wafers. The The English, on the other hand, prefered sugar cookies. Credit the Dutch for introducing Christmas cookies to America around the 1600s.

The chocolate chip cookie is a fairly new confection invented in America. Ruth Graves Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn in Massachusetts, made the first chocolate chip cookies in 1930 using Nestle chocolate.

Americans love chocolate chip cookies. There are many different variations on the recipe to make them. This specific recipe is a slight variation on the Food Network star Alton’s Brown’s “the chewy” chocolate chip cookie:

Ingredients

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 1/4 cups bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 bag of chocolate chips
  • Parchment paper

Directions

  • Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy-bottom medium saucepan over low heat.
  • Pour the melted butter in the mixer’s work bowl.
  • Add the sugar and brown sugar.
  • Cream the butter and sugars on medium speed.
  • Add the egg, yolk, milk and vanilla extract and mix until well combined.
  • Slowly incorporate the flour mixture until thoroughly combined.
  • Stir in the chocolate chips.
  • Chill the dough for 2 hours.
  • Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Using a spoon, scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets, 6 to 8 cookies per sheet.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown, rotating the sheet after 5 minutes for even browning. You may have to adjust the time as you continue baking down to 9.5 minutes (4:45-rotate-4:45) or even 9 minutes (4:30-rotate-4:30)
  • Let the cookies cool for a minute or two on the sheet before putting them on a cooling rack.
  • Cool completely and store in an airtight container.

Sources:

The Food Timeline
http://www.foodtimeline.org/christmasfood.html#cookies

Chocolate chip cookie
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chocolate_chip_cookie

A $59 Billion Black Friday Weekend

The turkey and stuffing were still digesting in shoppers’ stomachs as they lined up in the dark waiting for retail giants like Wal-mart, Target, and Toys R Us for opening their doors hours before midnight on Black Friday.

So, overall sales this weekend were up but because of the so-called “Black Thursday” deals, sales on Black Friday were down by 1.8 percent, according to ShopperTrak. Curiously, ShopperTrak noted that foot traffic on Black Friday rose slightly compared to last year.

Still, it was another record Thanksgiving weekend of sales. More than 35 million Americans visited stores and websites on Thanksgiving Day this year, and a record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the weekend, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). Shoppers spent $59 billion this weekend — $11.2 billion on Black Friday alone.

Of course, the shoppers weren’t exactly in the giving spirit when it came to their shopping agendas– 79.6 percent bought non-gift items, NRF reported. Clothing and clothing accessories topped the list of purchases, followed by video games and electronics.

The National Retail Federation predicts that overall holiday sales will increase 4.1 percent this year.

Cyber Shopping

While many Americans braved long lines and even pepper spraying “competitive shoppers” on Black Friday, the web savvy American shoppers who prefer to avoid the mall are scouring the Internet today in search of Cyber Monday deals.

Cyber Monday is gaining popularity as retailers offer free shipping, extra discounts and other bonuses for shopping online.

Considering most people are returning to work today, expect a lag in productivity from employers. A Shop.org survey shows that 58.4 percent of workers with Internet access will shop for holiday gifts from the comfort of their cubicle or office this year.

Last year on Cyber Monday, online purchases topped $1 billion, and analysts expect shoppers to exceed that amount this year, despite the lagging economy.

According to online tracker comScore, the top five online retailers are Amazon.com, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and Apple.

Happy online shopping everyone!

 

 

RESOURCES

National Retail Federation
Computer World

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving! Need to kill some time before dinner… or before you head out for the Thanksgiving night sales?

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade starts at 9 a.m. (EST) on NBC.

Charlie Brown Thanksgiving airs at 8 p.m. (EST) on ABC.

A Very Gaga Thanksgiving airs at 9:30 p.m. (EST) on ABC.

Get your Christmas movie watching started with a new Christmas movie, Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas, at 8 p.m. (EST) on Fox.

We’ll be posting reminders when various Christmas movies and specials air throughout the month, so be sure to become a fan of The Yule Blog on Facebook or follow us on Twitter @christmastrivia

Let the holiday season begin!

Autumn

Photo of a flock of migrating starlings

Photo by Marilyn Peddle

Today at 5:04 a.m. EDT marks the autumnal equinox, the beginning of fall in the Northern Hemisphere. It’s one of two days a year where the sun rises due east and sets due west.

As the days grow shorter and cooler, the traditions associated with the season also commence. From pumpkins and scarecrows to haunted hallows and turkey dinners, it’s a festive time of year. And every holiday, whether American or global, contains mythological, religious and secular traditions.

Although autumn brings vibrant foliage and bountiful harvests, it also signals the end of the growing season. It’s also followed by the darkest time of year — winter. Yet, like the joyous seasons of Christmas and New Year’s, we’ve turned a time period where everything around us is darkening and dying into a festive celebration, from Octoberfest to Thanksgiving.

So enjoy the autumn celebrations of football season, baseball playoffs, trick-or-treating and Turkey Day because, before you know it, the supermarket will be clearing away the Halloween candy and restocking the shelves with garland.

Download This: “It’s Christmas Time” (parts 1 and 2) by James Brown

James Brown may not be well known for singing Christmas songs, but the Godfather of Soul has quiet a holiday catalog. It’s Christmas Time Pt. 1 and It’s Christmas Time Pt. 2 are seriously soulful tunes.

Download these songs on iTunes.

We’re highlighting a different Christmas song every day in December until Christmas. From unique renditions of the classics to the new hits, we promise only the best recommendations. Check back daily for our picks!

Don’t Download This: “Christmas Shoes” by NewSong

Christmas Shoes by Christian band NewSong is quite possibly the worst Christmas song out there. It’s a horribily depressing and, quite frankly, unbelievable story. We could go on and on about this giant turd of a tune, but comedian Patton Oswalt does a much, much better job. So enjoy the brilliant Oswalt pick apart Christmas Shoes word for word:

We’re highlighting a different Christmas song every day in December until Christmas. From unique renditions of the classics to the new hits, we promise only the best recommendations. Check back daily for our picks!

Download This: Twisted Christmas

Twisted Sister never set out to be synonymous with the holiday season. Rather, the 1980s glam rock band are better known for their heavy metal sound, androgynous style and support of free speech.

But if you stop headbanging for a moment and listen closely, you might here a little bit of Christmas cheer woven into their biggest hit. Band frontman Dee Snider says We’re Not Gonna Take It, the band’s only Top 40 hit, was inspired, in part, by the religious Christmas carol O Come All Ye Faithful.

We’ll pause for a moment to let this little fact sink in… hear the similarities? Yes!

(Sidenote O Come All Ye Faithful is just one translation of Adeste Fideles, an English hymn that dates back to the 18th century.)

The Christmas connection doesn’t end there.

In 2006, Twisted Sister released its last album Twisted Christmas, a Christmas album of holiday favorites with a heavy metal twist. And yes, Oh Come All Ye Faithful is on the album. The band has toured at Christmastime over the past few years to perform their holiday tunes. Unfortunately, the Twisted Christmas live shows will not be performed this year because the band will be touring through November and December, the band wrote on their Web site.

With radio stations playing the same few dozen Christmas tunes non-stop through the holidays, Twisted Christmas offers Gen-Xers a playful rock spin on nearly a dozen Christmas classics.

Download this very metal Christmas album on iTunes.

We’re highlighting a different Christmas song every day in December until Christmas. From unique renditions of the classics to the new hits, we promise only the best recommendations. Check back daily for our picks!

From Russia With Love

The Nutcracker, which was largely dismissed at first by the Russians, has been embraced by Americans and Europeans alike at Christmas.

When it comes to entertainment, ballet is way down on the list for most middle class Americans… except at Christmastime.

The story of Clara, her nutcracker-turned-prince and a cast of toys, animals and fairies on pointed toes is a staple during the holiday season here and around the world.

The Nutcracker ballet is based on French author Alexander Dumas’ revision of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by German author E.T.A. Hoffman.

In 1891, theater director Ivan Vsevolozhsky commissioned Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to write the music for The Nutcracker ballet, which was choreographed by Marius Petipa.

The Nutcracker Ballet

The ballet centers around a girl named Clara and a nutcracker that she receives as a gift at a Christmas Eve party. Clara’s brother Fritz breaks the nutcracker. Although it is quickly mended, Clara, worried about her new cherished gift, sneaks down to the Christmas tree after the party to check on her nutcracker. She falls asleep under the tree and enters a dream where the toys around her come to life. A battle ensues between the toy soldiers, led by the nutcracker, and an army of mice, led by the Rat King. The mice capture the nutcracker but Clara strikes down the Rat King with her slipper. The nutcracker turns into a Prince and wisks the girl away to a magical land where she encounters dancing snowflakes in the Land of Snow and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Land of Sweets, where the price recounts the battle and a celebration ensues. The story ends with Clara awakening under the tree with her nutcracker in her arms.

In 1892, the first showing of The Nutcracker took place at the Mariinsky Theatre of Russia. Although it was not well received, the ballet made its way through Western Europe in the 1930s. It made its first American appearance as an abridged version of the story in New York City in 1940 but the first full length Nutcracker was performed by the San Francisco Ballet in 1944. Today, the ballet has become a holiday tradition, especially in America. One of the most famous annual stagings is George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, performed by the New York City Ballet.

The Nutcracker became Tchaikovsky’s most popular work. The Trepak, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Dance of the Mirltons, Tea and Waltz of the Flowers are as recognizable as the contemporary Christmas tunes that we hear during the holiday season.