Twelve Datasets of Christmas

Today’s post is all about Christmas! We have twelve holiday related datasets and some great graphs to go with them. It’s our Christmas present to you! Let’s get to it.

Pumpkin Spice Ingredient Imports

 Pumpkin spice is so popular in the Christmas season that it’s become a bit of a cliche. While pumpkin spice has been around for a long time, putting it in things other than pumpkin pie seems to be a modern invention. So much so that it’s become a little bit of a Christmas cliche. Given that, we decided to see if imports of the components of pumpkin spice have increased in recent years. Wikipedia mentions that these components are cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. The Government of Canada provides listings of imports and exports broken down by year of just about any product you can imagine, including the pumpkin spice components! And indeed, in ten years, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in those imports:

Canadian imports of pumpkin spice ingredients

The holidays are about spending time with family, giving and receiving gifts, and also about eating, drinking and making merry. One of the things that happens with our families is that we prepare large meals on the 25th, have to figure out what to do with the leftovers on the 26th, and then figure out how to celebrate the New Year – some people drink champagne, others get together and eat Chinese food. Can we see these trends in what people are searching for on Google? Indeed we can! Here’s some Google trends data for some popular holiday food. Look at the spikes for mashed potatoes, turkey soup, and champagne.

Google trends for turkey soup, mashed potatoes, hot chocolate, champagne and Chinese food

Christmas Songs in Spotify Charts

Something happens just after Halloween – Christmas music starts appearing in shopping malls, and on the radio. What about Spotify? With a huge selection of streamable music, you can listen to almost anything. So, when do people start listening to Christmas music voluntarily? Spotify charts can help us answer that question!

The chart starts gaining Christmas music in early November and picks up steam in December. The number of tracks continues to increase every week until Christmas arrives.

Proportion of songs in Spotify Charts that are Christmas Songs during the 2020 holiday season

That’s the number of Christmas songs in the charts. What about the number of times the songs are streamed?

Number of streams for the Christmas songs

The number of Christmas song streams in the charts never overtake other kinds of songs, except for right before Christmas. Note though that this is the stream counts for all the songs in the top 200 chart, not all the songs on Spotify.

If you are curious about what specific songs are at the top of the Canadian charts for the holiday season, here they are, along with how they climb the rankings:

The trends for the top 5 holiday songs in Canada over time in the 2020 holiday season

Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” dominated all through the 2020 holiday season.

Spotify also lists charts for five major Canadian cities (Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal). We took a look at the Christmas song rankings side by side. While all five cities rank the top Christmas song about the same, Calgary and Ottawa clearly have a similar preference for extended Christmas listening.

Comparing cities to each other for the first week of December 2021

Energy-Friendly Holiday Lights

One of our favourite holiday traditions as Canadians is competing with our neighbours to have the best holiday lights display on the block! But are these lights energy-friendly? When it comes to holiday lights, Canadians have made some progress in adopting LED holiday lights, moving from 29% of Canadians using them in 2007 to 36% of Canadians using them in 2019, according to StatsCan.

LED holiday light proportions – Canada 2007 to 2019

As you can see above though, more Canadians actually seemed to be using LED holiday lights from 2013 to 2017 – the percentage took a little dip in 2019. It’s hard to know why this is, as there’s no qualifying question in the Households and the Environment Survey as to whether Canadians are actually putting up holiday lights in the first place. So, it could be that less Canadians are actually putting up lights, or it could be that more Canadians are using non-LED holiday lights again (that maybe they picked up at their local Christmas Bazaar!).

Regardless, it’s easy to see from the data which areas (CMA’s) have really gotten behind energy-friendly holiday lights! St. John’s comes in at number one with 51% reporting using LED holiday lights, followed closely by Kelowna at 50%. 

CityProvince2013201520172019
St. John’sNewfoundland and Labrador50553951
KelownaBritish Columbia53475850
OshawaOntario41505649
HalifaxNova Scotia48464147
PeterboroughOntario50585247
Top 5 CMA’s Using LED Holiday Lights (%) in 2019

On the opposite end, only 27% reported using LED holiday lights in Montreal and Sherbrooke.

CityProvince2013201520172019
SherbrookeQuebec44385027
MontréalQuebec36333927
QuébecQuebec42404230
LethbridgeAlberta......30
WinnipegManitoba37433931
Bottom 5 CMA’s Using LED Holiday Lights (%) in 2019

From a quick glance at these tables, you might assume (and correctly so), the prairies and Quebec tend to lean toward less LED holiday lights, while the east and west coast plus Ontario tend to lean toward more LED holiday lights. Again, this might be because less people are putting up lights in the first place in the prairies and Quebec. It’s simply hard to tell.

Christmas Birds

Did you know that since 1900, citizen scientists have gotten together at Christmastime to count birds together? Neither did we! But this is known as the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which started when 27 conservationists decided to promote conservation by counting (rather than hunting) birds on Christmas Day. This year marks the Audubon’s 122nd Christmas Bird Count, with thousands of volunteers across the Western Hemisphere getting together to count birds over a 24-hour period chosen by their location’s circle compiler. Talk about manual data collection. In Canada, Audubon partners with Birds Canada to get this done. This data set is one of only two large pools of information informing ornithologists and conservation biologists how the birds of the Americas are faring over time.

So, we took a look at some of the data of the Christmas Bird Counters from their 120nd count in a few of Canada’s most Christmasy-named locations: Holiday Beach, ON; Elk Island, AB; and Powder King, BC. 

Location# of ParticipantsLow Temp (C)High Temp (C)# of Species Reported
Holiday Beach381.05.078
Elk Island51-11.0-8.023
Powder King3-6.0-1.06
Christmas bird watching statistics for some select Canadian geographies

The enthusiasm for Christmas bird counting seems to be strongest in Elk Island, with 51 participants in the 120th count, followed closely by 38 participants in Holiday Beach. Powder King might need to work on its marketing with only 3 participants. However, participant numbers doesn’t correlate with # of species reported, as Holiday Beach participants swooped in to report 78 different species in their count! Elk Island and Powder King lag quite far behind at 23 and 6 respectively. But, maybe this has something to do with the cold temperatures!? Holiday Beach participants experienced a balmy high of 5C and low of 1C, while Elk Island participants were subjected to a chilly high of -8C and a bitter low of -11C. Powder King temperatures fell right in the middle, with a high of -1C and a low of -6C. So kudos to the Elk Island and Powder King participants for sticking it out through the cold weather, and here’s to even more species reported in this year’s 121st count!

Top Christmas Films on Netflix

When does the Christmas season officially start? That’s an age-old question. We took a look at Netflix’s Top 10 Data from November to December to see when Canadians really start to dive into their favourite Christmas movies, and what those favourite Christmas movies are.

Looking at the chart below, it seems most Canadians start watching Christmas movies on Netflix in the second week of November, with four Christmas movies taking top 10 spots for three weeks straight, until the week ending November 28th. Oddly enough, the number drops to three for the week ending December 5th.

Nine unique Christmas films made it into Canadians’ Christmas lineup on Netflix. How The Grinch Stole Christmas is a Canadian favourite, holding a spot in the top 10 in four of the five weeks we took a look at, followed by Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and Love Hard each holding a top 10 spot in three of the five weeks. A Castle for Christmas managed a top spot in two of the five weeks. 

FilmCumulative Weeks
How the Grinch Stole Christmas4
Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch3
Love Hard3
A Castle for Christmas2
My Christmas Inn1
Single All the Way1
A Boy Called Christmas1
Snowbound for Christmas1
Father Christmas is Back1
Top Christmas Films on Netflix in Canada by Cumulative Weeks
November 1, 2021 – December 5, 2021

It’s clear Canadians love their Grinch Christmas films! We’ll be keeping an eye on Netflix’s Top 10 data in the coming weeks to see how the competition plays out as we get closer to Christmas Day.

Holiday Season Travel

Statistics Canada reports on travel by Canadian residents. (https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=2410004501). In a typical year, Canadians make about 70,000,000 trips during the 4th quarter. That was cut in half in 2020, with a total of just under 35,000,000 trips being made. Conferences were hit the hardest, followed by visiting friends and family. In 2019-2018 Canadians travelled an average of 31,441,000 times for personal visits but in 2020 that number was reduced by almost two-thirds to 11,894,000. 

Turkeys at the Holidays

Statistics Canada reports the sale of turkeys as part of its annual report on the production, disposition and farm value of poultry meat. Unfortunately this is an annual data series so we can’t isolate the holiday season but turkey sales peaked in 2008 with a total of 22,790,000 birds sold. In recent years the volume has fallen below 20 million, which is surprising considering that the population of Canada has grown by almost 5 million people in that time. It’s really cool to have a data series that goes back so far – chicken and poultry sales data is available back to 1987.

Trend in turkey sales: Canada 1987 to 2020

We may only have annual sales figures but Statistics Canada does report on inventory of frozen turkeys on a monthly basis. We can get a rough proxy for holiday turkey consumption by subtracting the January numbers from December of the previous year. When we look at this data it becomes clear that the traditional Christmas season is impacting the turkey industry in Canada – there has been a steady decline in this number from a peak of over 15,000,000 kilograms in 2009-2010 down under 10,000,000 last year. For fun I’ve included a chart of the entire data series covering the whole 12 months of the year, because when is the next time I will get to compile turkey statistics?

Trends in change of turkey stocks -2001 to 2021

Artificial Christmas Tree Imports

Back in 2017 Statistics Canada reported that Canada had become a net Christmas tree importer: exporting 49.4 million dollars worth of real trees and importing 60.8 million dollars worth of artificial christmas trees. I took a look at the International merchandise trade by commodity to see how the import trade has grown for Christmas trees. You can find this data on the government of Canada website, which is unfortunately only reported for the previous year. (https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/scr/ic/sbms/cid/productReportHS10.html;jsessionid=0001eqWOLXYccDl4rO8mcUs5n9Z:-1800M0E?hsCode=9505100010)

In 2020, almost 69 million dollars worth of artificial Christmas trees were imported into Canada. 

The innovation, Science and Economic Development agency also reports on imports of “Articles for Christmas festivities other than artificial Christmas Trees”, which were worth 231,781,225 dollars in 2020 (https://www.ic.gc.ca/app/scr/ic/sbms/cid/productReportHS10.html?hsCode=9505100090)

Percentage change of White Xmas 

I always heard that it was a white christmas when my parents grew up, even in my childhood in the early late 80s/early 90s I remember a number of snow Santa arrivals. 

The four outliers in this data are St John’s NFLD, Vancouver BC, Victoria BC and Windsor Ontario seeing increases in the chance for a white Christmas. 

Vancouver and Victoria both historically have scene a trace of snow on Christmas Day with the odds rising from single digits to 10-15% respectively 

Windsor’s average snow depth increased from 4cm to 5cms
https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/weather-general-tools-resources/historical-christmas-snowfall-data.html#label1

Great Lakes Ice Coverage

Going with the snowy winter theme, finding a pond and skating on it is the quintessential Canada winter activity for some Canadians. Here’s what great lakes ice coverage looked like over the years. The data is from NOAA (https://www.glerl.noaa.gov/data/ice/).

Great lakes ice coverage – 1973 to 2021

Egg Nogs Sales in Canada

How about many people’s favourite holiday drink? Egg nog sales trend throughout the year as you would expect – only being sold at the end of the year, peaking at Christmas. There was an uncharacteristic blip in March 2020 though.

Egg nog sales. Data from Statistics Canada.

Interestingly, there was a story in the financial post in October about the Canadian dairy industries goals to make egg nog a year-round beverage.

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