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Like it or not, the holidays are here. So get gussied up, work on your fake laugh and practice your small talk: You've got parties to attend.

According to a recent nationally representative online survey of 2,717 adults conducted exclusively for American Demographics by Rochester, N.Y.-based market research firm Harris Interactive, the average American will attend 2.7 parties this holiday season and spend 2 hours and 36 minutes at each.

Who are the biggest party animals? The typical 18- to 34-year-old expects to pop into 3.4 parties in the coming months, significantly more than any other age group. What's more, 21 percent of young adults say they will attend 5 or more between now and New Year's Day. Equally busy on the party circuit are the wealthy (those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more), who will attend an average of 3.4 holiday fetes, and a select 5 percent of this income group will be making the rounds to 10 or more parties.

Hispanics also have more holiday parties to attend than average. According to the American Demographics/Harris survey, the average Hispanic will drop by 3.2 holiday fiestas this season, compared with the average non-Hispanic, who expects to attend only 2.7 gatherings.

And if a celebration at the home of Hispanics is on your agenda, be prepared to be at a party that will last late into the night. The average Hispanic partygoer outlasts the average non-Hispanic by 36 minutes. Specifically, Hispanics will typically stay at a holiday party for 3 hours and 12 minutes, compared with non-Hispanics, who will head for the door after just 2 hours and 36 minutes.

Those in the Northeast also linger longer at holiday parties. One in six Northeasterners (17 percent) will stay at a party for 4 hours or more. It's a much different story in the South, where only 4 percent of residents say they will hang around for more than 4 hours. In fact, 8 percent of Southerners say they won't even stay at a party for more than an hour.

Whether your guests stick around for 15 minutes or 5 hours, hardly anyone shows up empty-handed. And unlike the guests of the first Christmas gathering, who went bearing frankincense, gold and myrrh, today's holiday partygoers are more likely to tote along cookies, candy and booze. According to the survey, 9 in 10 guests give the party's host a gift, the most common of which are homemade baked goods and wine or spirits; half of all adults plan to take at least one or the other to an upcoming holiday gathering this year.

Other items commonly presented to the host of a party include gifts for the home, such as candles and potpourri (29 percent); store-bought foods (24 percent); flowers or plants (21 percent); gift baskets of fruits, cheeses or meats (18 percent); candy (17 percent); and holiday decorations (14 percent). (Survey respondents were allowed to identify as many types of gifts as they wanted.)

For women, holiday parties are an excuse to don an apron and get to baking; for men, they're an excuse to head to the liquor store. Women are significantly more likely than men to say they'll take homemade treats to this year's holiday celebrations (58 percent versus 43 percent), whereas men are more likely to take wine or spirits (56 percent versus 45 percent). College grads are also more likely to spice up the party with a little drinky-drink. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) of those who have a college degree will give their host a bottle of alcohol, compared with only 37 percent of those with a high school education or less.

While most party hosts would like to think that each of the gifts they receive from their guests was selected expressly with them in mind, that's not always the case. According to the survey, 3 percent of partygoers admit that they regularly re-gift, or give presents to others that were originally bestowed on themselves. Sort of gives new meaning to the phrase, “the gift that keeps on giving.�

For more information, e-mail John Fetto, [email protected].


A clear majority of Americans say that the desire to spend time with family and friends is what gets them to attend holiday parties. Of course, some people — especially the young — are drawn to the parties by the free food and booze.


ALL MEN WOMEN 18-34 35-44 45-54 55+
To spend time with friends, family and co-workers 82% 78% 85% 82% 79% 80% 84%
Obligations to friends, family and co-workers 30% 32% 28% 30% 32% 36% 25%
Tradition 30% 26% 33% 27% 29% 28% 35%
Free food and booze 13% 14% 11% 22% 13% 10% —
Religious celebration 8% 6% 9% 5% 10% 8% 8%
Networking opportunities 6% 7% 4% 7% 6% — —
Nothing better to do 4% 5% 3% 6% 5% — —
*Respondents were asked to select motivating factors.
— Sample size too small. Source: American Demographics/Harris Interactive
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