Just 24% of employers surveyed are offering holiday bonuses this year, down sharply from 42% in 2008.

Of those giving bonuses, 49% will give cash, spending a median of $250 per employee, the survey by Hewitt Associates, Lincolnshire, Ill, found. In addition, 39% will give gift cards, with a median value of $35 per employee, and 22% percent will give food, such as a turkey or ham.

While the current economy accounts for some of the decrease in bonuses, Hewitt finds a steady trend away from these bonuses toward the adoption of more formal pay-for-performance-programs. Average employer spending on variable pay as a percent of payroll increased from 9.7% in 2000 to 11.2% in 2010. On the other hand, average salary increases in 2000 were 4.3%, compared to just 1.8% in 2009.