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Data visualization assesses kids’ enthusiasm for Christmas
21 Dec, 2015 - Lachlan James


By Eshan Wickrema and Lachlan James

As most horrendous Christmas themed films and ‘music’ indicate, our modern interpretation of December 25th is all about the kids. Us adults are merely required to coordinate festivities, supervise and make small talk with Aunty Joyce. Oh, and our wallets. We’re needed for our wallets too.

So, which children are most likely to embrace the notion of Santa, and what types of gifts will you have to buy on behalf of Saint Nick to avoid tears under the tree this Christmas?

To understand the length of the charade and depth of the pockets required, we’ve turned to data visualization and Business Intelligence software for the answers.


Letters to Santa by country

Sources: Source 1, Source 2, Source 3 (figures are an approximation)

Insights
  • France’s postal service receives the most letters addressed to Santa during the Christmas period (1,700,000)
    • The Top five countries encompass France, Canada, United States, Brazil and the UK
  • Canada (1,350,000) and the United States (1,000,000 +) are the only other two countries whose postal services receive over one million letters addressed to Santa each year
    • The number of letters sent to Sanata in the US is not entirely clear, with an estimation from multiple sources putting the number at a conservative one million – a figure many say is much higher
  • Less than 50 percent of the population of New Zealand, Lebanon and Ukraine identify as Christian, yet their respective postal services receive 110,000, 8,800 and 5,000 letters addressed to Santa each year
  • Finland, sixth on the ‘letters to Santa list’ with over 750,000 letters, receives a disproportionately high number of letters addressed to Santa per capita as it is home to “Santa Claus’ Post Office”
French fascination with writing Father Christmas
Do you live in France? Time to set the laptop aside and brush-up on your cursive. Based on data collected by the Universal Postal Union (UPU), France send more letters addressed to the bearded bloke than any other country (1.7 million in 2013). For those playing along at home, the UPU is the inter-governmental organization that coordinates postal policies across its 192 member nations.

The UK sneaks into the top-five letter sending nations (800,000), with Canada (1.35 million), US (1 million +) and Brazil (965,000) making up the other positions amongst the top five. However, other sources, though not uniform or entirely reliable, indicate that US kids actually compose considerably more correspondence to Kris Kringle than suggested by the UPU.

Of more concrete interest is the fact that Finland (population of approximately six million) receives a particularly large number of letters addressed to Santa (750,000) when assessed on a per capita basis. Are Finnish families just particularly festive? Perhaps. However, a more likely explanation is that the Finnish region of Lapland contains Santa Claus’ Village, complete with Santa Claus’ Post Office, which is inundated by domestic and international wish lists from Children across the globe.

With a modest population of 35 million, perhaps Canada’s penchant for handwriting notes to Saint Nick can be explained by the fact Santa has his own postcode in the land of the maple leaf. What is it you ask? Well, it’s “H0H 0H0” – what else!?

Now, call me a cynic (guilty as charged), but it’s probably fair to assume that the vast majority of these minor memos are self-interested. So, what have been the most widely purchased ‘must have’ kids Christmas gifts over recent years? And, more importantly, what do you need to purchase to avoid Christmas morning mourning in 2015?


Most popular kids Christmas gifts per year (1983 – 2015)

Source: Statisticbrain.com >
Tip: Use the toggle button to switch between chart and table mode

Insights
  • The most expensive kids gift amongst the most highly-sought-after items by year was the iPad in 2010, which cost $499 (62% of households bought an iPad that year)
  • The most expensive non-electronic (entertainment) annual gift of choice was the Razor Crazy Cart in 2014, retailing at $349 (47% of households purchased a Razor Crazy Cart in 2014)
  • The average price of each year’s most popular kids Christmas gift has increased significantly over time
    • Of the 28 years of data recorded, the first 14 years yielded an average spend of $49 per item, with the gift of choice over the last 14 years costing consumers an average of $172 (of course wage growth, combined with increases in cost of living and inflation rates, need to be taken into consideration)
    • Interestingly, the price of the ‘must have’ Christmas gift has fluctuated each year for the last seven years, alternating between items costing over $300 and presents priced at $40 or less
Kids cash in
Ok, so the songs were a little catchy. But, be prepared to enjoy Elsa ad nauseam, with the most popular children’s gift of Christmas 2015 predicted to be the Frozen Sing Along Elsa Doll, with 49 percent of households estimated to have an Elsa doll under their tree.

Priced at just $40, at least you won’t have to break-the-bank in order to manage the merry mandates of the minors in your life this Christmas. However, it’s also clear that the average price of each year’s most popular kids Christmas gift has significantly increased over time. Of the 28 years of data recorded, the first 14 years yielded an average spend of $49 per item, with the gift of choice over the last 14 years costing consumers an average of $172. While these figures reflect the boom in overall spending on Christmas related gift giving, they should also be tempered with the acknowledgement of wage growth, combined with increases in cost of living and inflation rates, over that period of time.

However, price isn’t the only consideration you need to take into account as a gift giver to children. You must also ruminate over how long you need to maintain the farce of Santa’s existence. But, bear in mind that once the pretense has passed, you’ll then bear the full brunt of child pester power (not to be underestimated).

So at what age do most kids stop believing in good ol’ Saint Nicholas?


Ages people stop believing in Santa

Source: theatlantic.com >

Insights
  • More children belonging to families of the four religious orientations ‘Catholic’ (46%), ‘Evangelical Protestant’ (50%), ‘Mainline Protestant’ (55%) and ‘No Affiliation’ (56%) stop believing in Santa between five and eight years of age than at any other age bracket
  • Children from families with ‘Other’ religious orientations are most likely to stop believing in Santa between nine and twelve years of age (49%)
  • 0-4: Five percent of those with no religious orientation – ‘No Affiliation’ – cease believing in Santa between zero and four years of age (the highest of all five religious orientations for that age bracket)
  • Over 12: Seven percent of people who identify as ‘Catholic’ only stopped believing in Santa once over the age of 12 (the highest of all five religious orientations for that age bracket)
  • Still believe: Nine percent of people who identify as ‘Other’ religion still believe in Santa (the highest of all five religious orientations for that age bracket)
The age of believing
It’s a pretty universally familiar story: Once kids start going to school, they’re exposed to new ideas and truths. And, as such, it’s around this time that most stop believing in Santa Claus.

More children belonging to families of the four religious orientations ‘Catholic’ (46%), ‘Evangelical Protestant’ (50%), ‘Mainline Protestant’ (55%) and ‘No Affiliation’ (56%) stop believing in Santa between five and eight years of age than at any other age bracket.

Children from families with ‘Other’ religious orientations are most likely to stop believing in Santa between nine and twelve years of age (49%). Although, the most interesting deviations between the five religious groups occur at either end of the spectrum.

Of all the religious orientations within the study reported by theatlantic.com, it’s most common for children from families identified as non-religious (‘No Affiliation’) to stop believing in Santa between zero and four years of age (5%). Conversely, nine percent of people who identify as ‘Other’ religion still believe in Santa (the highest of all five religious orientations for that age bracket). If this is – or, at least, was you – we’re sorry for implying Saint Nick’s non-existence. But hey, you had to find out some time, right?

Speaking of blissful ignorance, it’s pretty clear that most kids adopt many beliefs and ideals from their parents. So how hard do most of us adults push the plausibility of Santa compared to other fanciful notions?


Believing in make-believe: Santa vs Tooth Fairy

Insights
  • Across ages three to nine, kids believe more in Santa Claus than they do in the Tooth Fairy
  • Age five is the point at which children are most likely to believe in both Santa (83%) and the Tooth Fairy (65%)
  • From age five onwards the percentage of children who believe in both Santa and the Tooth Fairy decline
Santa outlasts the Tooth Fairy
Another common fable told to children when growing up is that of the Tooth Fairy. But, it seems that more adults want their kids to embrace Saint Nick’s mythology than that of the Tooth Fairy, with a higher proportion of children aged three to nine believing in Santa compared to that tetchy tooth merchant.


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