Here's a little numerical portrait to help shed some light on the holiday season.
Let's start with 336. That's the year of the first recorded celebration of Christmas. During the first 300 years of the church's existence, birthdays were given little emphasis -- not even that of Christ.
Clearly, things have changed. This year, two billion people around the world will commemorate the birth of Jesus. Approximately 40,000 pilgrims will flock to Bethlehem, Christ's birthplace. And Americans will spend an estimated $474 billion in honor of the savior's birthday.
The number of Christmas trees sold each year in the United States is 33 million. It takes 7 years for a Christmas tree to reach the height desired by American consumers.
The United States imports $1.2 billion in Christmas ornaments each year from China, its top supplier of tree decorations. China also provides America with 85 percent of its artificial Christmas trees.
There are 369 different styles of Santa Claus ornaments for sale at the Mall of America. Twenty-six depict St. Nick downing some type of alcoholic beverage. Three show Father Christmas trying his luck at a slot machine.
5000 is the number of kids an average shopping mall Santa sees each season. The average weight of such a Santa is 258 pounds.
And, finally, there's four million tons. That's the amount of trash generated each year from the wrapping paper and shopping bags that accompany all the Christmas giving.