With the holiday season in full swing, Mintel wanted to find out just what U.S. consumers do to make their holidays special. Some just might surprise you.November is the most popular time to start shopping for holiday gifts, with nearly one-third (30 percent) starting then. However, 15 percent start their holiday shopping in December - the majority (18 percent) is male. Sixty-nine percent of women bought a Christmas gift for someone in the past year, versus only 57 percent of men...come on guys, get out there and shop!Forty-two percent of Americans say they bought Christmas decorations in the past year, compared to only 24 percent for Halloween and 14 percent for Easter. Roughly one-third (32 percent) expect stores to offer boxes for holiday gifts; but 21 percent skip the wrapping paper, saying they only use it rarely if at all, since gift bags are so plentiful.Close to a quarter (22 percent) plan to cut down on the number of people they buy gifts for; more than two in 10 browse in-store, but buy online to save money; and 27percent say that when they go gift shopping for the holidays, they usually wind up buying something for themselves.From last year's holiday season (i.e. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, etc.), the average amount of money spent on video gaming equipment as gifts for other people was $78; and some 13 percent think a cell phone is a good gift for children aged 6-11, up from just 4 percent earlier this year. Close to three in 10 (29 percent) say they bought a fragrance as a gift for someone else on Christmas, in fact, the winter holidays represent the peak season for fragrance sales. Then again, who doesn't love the smell of the holidays -- evergreens, cinnamon and sage? It turns out that just more than a quarter (28 percent) of Mintel respondents buy candles specifically for the holidays.Christmas is the top occasion for sending a card in the U.S. - 64 percent purchased a Christmas greeting card in the past year - but more than 67 percent received one. And Americans have very smart pets - 11 percent of them sent a greeting card or gift to their loved ones.If you go to Roger McGuinn's Folk Den (seasonal) www.ibiblio.org/jimmy/folkden-wp, you can enjoy his wonderful version of the traditional English song "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Roger asks what a colly-bird is (from the fourth day of Christmas). "The first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary published the section covering 'colly' in October 1891," he writes. "It reveals that 'colly' is, or was, an old English word meaning black, from 'coal'. And, it says, a 'colly-bird' is the Blackbird.Whatever it takes to make your holidays special, Food Processing would like to add to your festivity by wishing you a safe, happy, aroma- filled and delicious holiday season. You are special to us. See you in 2012.