The wrapping paper from Christmas Day is still on the floor but the news about how bad the season was has already hit the news.

Reports The Wall Street Journal:

Price-slashing failed to rescue a bleak holiday season for beleaguered retailers, as sales plunged across most categories on shrinking consumer spending, according to new data released Thursday.

Despite a flurry of last-minute shoppers lured by the deep discounts, total retail sales, excluding automobiles, fell over the year-earlier period by 5.5% in November and 8% in December through Christmas Eve, according to MasterCard Inc.’s SpendingPulse unit.

When gasoline sales are excluded, the fall in overall retail sales is more modest: a 2.5% drop in November and a 4% decline in December. A 40% drop in gasoline prices over the year-earlier period contributed to the sharp decline in total sales.

But considering individual sectors, "This will go down as the one of the worst holiday sales seasons on record," said Mary Delk, a director in the retail practice at consulting firm Deloitte LLP. "Retailers went from ‘Ho-ho’ to ‘Uh-oh’ to ‘Oh-no.’"

The holiday retail-sales decline was much worse than the already-dire picture painted by industry forecasts, which had predicted sales ranging from a 1% drop to a more optimistic increase of 2.2%.

Like many others, we cut back on Christmas spending but still enjoyed a good family Christmas. It should never be the size of the gift or the amount it cost. What matters is the thought behind the gift.

Still, many retailers who depend on holiday sales face an uncertain future as we head into the new year. Estimates from economists say at least 62,000 businesses will close next year.

Some say the current economic crisis threatens more than just the economy. It puts the American Dream at risk and may force Americans to rethink their entire way of life.

Disturbing things to considere as we head into the New Year.