Like America’s businesses, the coronavirus affected every holiday differently. Some suffered predictably terrible losses, while others remained neutral or even benefited from the crisis. A holiday’s place on the calendar had a lot to do with whether it went boom or bust, but each holiday’s themes and customs played a role, too. The big, wild parades of St. Patrick’s Day, for example, were simply not possible, but the masses spent way more money on pricey gifts for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
Using data from the National Retail Federation (NRF) and other sources, GOBankingRates examined if and how America’s spending habits varied during each major holiday throughout the last year. This is how the virus changed the way America celebrated over the last year — and how Americans spent their money while celebrating.
Held early in February 2020, Groundhog Day went off without a hitch as news of a mysterious and worrisome new virus was just beginning to bubble up in the public consciousness. This year, however, the pandemic cast its shadow over the whole affair.
- $1 million: Amount of money Groundhog Day generates for the local economy of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania
- $200: Amount the average visitor to Punxsutawney spends during their stay
- 0: Number of guests to attend Groundhog Day Prognostication in 2021
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Valentine’s Day was the last major holiday to squeak through before the virus put a clamp on celebrations of love or anything else. By Feb. 14, however, the buzz about the virus had turned to widespread anxiety. The romance business boomed as people spent more money on gifts to compensate for dinner reservations never made.
- 32%: Rise in total estimated Valentine’s Day spending between 2019 and 2020 ($20.7 billion in 2019 to $27.4 billion in 2020)
- $5.8 billion: Estimated 2020 Valentine’s Day spending on jewelry
- $4.3 billion: Estimated 2020 Valentine’s Day spending on an evening out
- $2.9 billion: Estimated 2020 Valentine’s Day spending on clothing
- $2.4 billion: Estimated 2020 Valentine’s Day spending on candy
- $2.3 billion: Estimated 2020 Valentine’s Day spending on flowers
- 51.5%: Revenue growth for 1-800-flowers.com in Q1 FY2021 (85% e-commerce growth)
St. Patrick’s Day
By St. Patrick’s Day, the seriousness and scope of the virus were coming into focus as giant, economy-driving events like SXSW and March Madness were canceled one after the other. The day’s emerald-clad parades and raucous pub crawls were replaced with soda bread, cabbage and corned beef at home.
- $6.16 billion: Total expected St. Patrick’s Day spending in 2020
- 27%: Percentage of Americans who planned to attend an event at a bar or restaurant on St. Patrick’s Day 2020
Then-President Donald Trump was widely panned as being out of touch with the seriousness of the virus when he vowed to have the country open and ready for church by Easter Sunday. The reality was that the holiday was so thoroughly interrupted that the National Retail Federation didn’t even print its annual Easter 2020 consumer survey that year.
- $3.5 billion: Number of dollars spent on Easter candy sales in 2019 (pre-COVID-19)
- 4.5%: Total percentage of annual candy sales in 2019 represented by Easter-themed candy, such as Peeps and Cadbury eggs
- 68%: Percentage of Americans who said that COVID-19 would impact their Easter spending in 2020
A surge in Mother’s Day spending suggests that the pandemic fostered a renewed appreciation for mom — and plenty of worry for her well-being, as well.
- $26.7 billion: Total Mother’s Day spending projected in 2020, a record high
- 78%: Percentage of consumers who said that celebrating Mother’s Day was particularly important in 2020 due to the pandemic
- $17 billion: Total Father’s Day spending projected in 2020 — like Mother’s Day, this was also a record high
- 77%: Percentage of consumers who said that celebrating Father’s Day was particularly important in 2020 due to the pandemic
By July 4, the virus was still raging, but quarantine fatigue was clearly setting in. Independence Day spending and celebrating dropped compared to 2019, but not by as much as you might think considering the context.
- $76.49: Amount the average American expected to spend on food items for Independence Day 2020
- 76%: Percentage of consumers who planned to celebrate Independence Day in 2020, compared to 86% in 2019
- 3.8%: Decrease in total expected Independence Day spending in 2020 ($6.78 billion in 2019 to $6.52 billion in 2020)
COVID-19 didn’t ruin Halloween, but it did change it. Even though average per-person spending was expected to rise, overall Halloween spending was down quite a bit.
- $92.12: Amount the average American expected to spend on Halloween in 2020 (compared to $86.27 in 2019)
- 58%: Percentage of consumers who planned to celebrate Halloween in 2020 (compared to 68% in 2019)
- 9.1%: Decrease in total expected Halloween spending in 2020 ($8.8 billion in 2019 to $8 billion in 2020)
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In 2020, celebrations were downsized or canceled altogether. But giving thanks — and spending for the sentiment — were definitely on the Thanksgiving menu.
- 21.5%: Year-over-year increase in Thanksgiving Day online spending in 2020
- $186.05: Amount the average American expected to spend on Thanksgiving in 2019 (pre-COVID-19)
- 73%: Percentage of consumers who planned to spend the same or more for Thanksgiving in 2020 as they did in 2019
The trend away from malls and department stores was already firmly in place when the COVID-19 crisis cemented 2020 as the no-going-back year for online holiday shopping.
- $691: Average amount consumers planned to spend during the 2020 holiday season (compared to $740 in 2019 and $693 in 2018)
- 80%: Percentage of consumers who planned to do their holiday shopping online in 2020
- 42%: Percentage of consumers who said that free shipping would influence where they would do their holiday shopping in 2020
- 22%: Year-over-year increase in online spending on Black Friday in 2020
- 8.3%: Year-over-year increase in total retail sales during the November-December holiday season in 2020 ($789.4 billion total)
- 34%: Year-over-year decrease in dollars spent on holiday travel in 2020
New Year’s Eve
The year came to a merciful end on a New Year’s Eve like no other — one that celebrities presided over from an eerily quiet and nearly empty Times Square.
- Hundreds of thousands: Number of people who typically gather around One Times Square for the New Year’s Eve ball-dropping ceremony
- 0: Number of public viewing areas open near Times Square on New Year’s Eve 2021 (Dec. 31, 2020)
- $23 million: One Times Square’s annual billboard income (estimate from 2012)
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Methodology: To gauge how the virus changed holiday spending habits in America, GOBankingRates used data from the National Retail Federation and other sources to compare spending, plans and projections from 2019 and 2020. All information is accurate and up to date as of Jan. 26, 2021.