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New Year’s Is America’s Fourth-Favorite Holiday

We’re just about done with the cataclysm of cheer and consumption that is the holiday season. Soon we will all sober up and go back to our lives as grumpy people ashamed of our weight and spending habits. But not quite yet: We’ve still got the New Year’s bacchanal to go through, which is great because it’s my second-favorite holiday.

Sure, New Year’s shares a lot of DNA with the worst holiday, St. Patrick’s Day:1 You have to show up to work day-of, then it’s amateur night at the bar, and there’s a strong possibility of making (or being near someone making) a horrible decision. But if you play it right, hunker down somewhere with friends, grab the requisite gallons of André before the liquor stores get crowded and follow the protocols of DanceSafe, New Year’s Eve is a top-tier holiday.

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If nothing else, it’s a fitting end to the biggest drinking month of the whole year. The holidays correspond to an uptick in booze sales. For instance, Pennsylvania2 has state-run liquor stores, and its liquor authority publishes outstanding data about monthly sales, the kind of data that’s unobtainable for most of the country. Here’s the authority’s last fiscal year:

hickey-holiday-power-ranking-1

Of course, not everyone enjoys drinking, making resolutions or new beginnings. So where does New Year’s rank in popularity compared with the myriad other holidays celebrated in these United States? I commissioned a SurveyMonkey Audience poll of 1,095 respondents to find out.

Rather than list the voluminous number of recognized holidays from all faiths and creeds and nationalities, I asked people to list their five favorite holidays. Our respondents listed 177 days of interest. There was a lot of variety here, from Alaska Day to Yule. There was Pi Day and the even more esoteric Tau Day, Free Comic Book Day, several cultural new years, something called “World Vegetarian Day”3 and a good dozen or so spellings of Hanukkah. Also, to the three people who said 4/20 was one of their five favorite holidays, nice.

But let’s look at the big leagues. The top 10 holidays accounted for 85 percent of submissions. Here are the top 15, ranked by the percentage of ballots on which they appeared.

hickey-holidaypowerranking-2

The Christmas juggernaut dominates — so much so that enough people said “Christmas Eve” that it was worth breaking out on its own rather than combining it with the official holiday as we did with New Year’s.4 If we used the same criteria as the Baseball Hall of Fame, only Christmas would show up on enough ballots to make the Hall. The unqualified king of the non-year-end holidays is July 4, Independence Day. Easter and Halloween round out the top six as the two candy holidays, one of which commemorates the resurrection of the one many consider God and the other of which lets us dress up all spooky-like.

So the moral of it all is drink up: According to these power rankings, tonight is going to be the most fun we’ll have until July.

Footnotes

  1. Before you call me out, check the last name, people. ^
  2. Data about alcohol sales can be pretty tricky to obtain! Although government data exists, federal taxes are all assessed on the production side of the business — taxes are paid when the product leaves the brewery, winery or distillery, not at the point of sale — and the myriad laws across the nation governing booze make it tough to get a holistic picture. Plus, since so many producers and retailers are privately held or are mom-and-pop, we can’t even sneak a peek through their Securities and Exchange Commission disclosures. But, conveniently, several states operate their own liquor stores. One of them is Pennsylvania, and they made it particularly easy to obtain monthly sales data for liquor and wine. ^
  3. You know the old joke about how to find out if someone is a vegetarian? ^
  4. About 70 percent of Americans identify as Christian, according to the Pew Research Center. ^

Walt Hickey is FiveThirtyEight’s chief culture writer.

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