Home > Research > Survey >Americans Divided over Appropriate Holiday Greetings, Blend Religious and Cultural Holiday Practices
Americans Divided over Appropriate Holiday Greetings, Blend Religious and Cultural Holiday Practices
Daniel Cox, Robert P. Jones, PhD,

Americans are divided over what greetings businesses should use during the December holidays.

The PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey, conducted by Public Religion Research Institute in partnership with Religion News Service found that nearly half (49%) of Americans say stores should use “merry Christmas” this holiday season, compared to 44% who say that they should use more generic “happy holidays” or season’s greetings” out of respect for people of different faiths.

The survey reveals large religious, partisan, and regional differences over the appropriateness of different holiday greetings.

A majority of white evangelical Protestants (69%) and white mainline Protestants (57%) support stores using “merry Christmas.” A majority of Catholics (55%), however, support stores using more generic greetings like “happy holidays.”

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of Republicans also support saying “merry Christmas” as opposed to more generic greetings. In contrast, nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Democrats say stores and businesses should be using “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” out of respect for people of different faiths.

A majority of Americans living in the Midwest (56%) and the South (54%), and a plurality (49%) of those living in the West say stores and businesses should greet customers with “Merry Christmas,” while nearly 6-in-10 (58%) Americans living in the Northeast say businesses should use more generic greetings.

The survey also found that while Christmas celebrations dominate the December holiday season, a significant number of Americans regularly mix Christmas with other religious holidays.

An overwhelming majority (96%) of Americans celebrate Christmas. Nearly 9-in-10 (89%) Americans celebrate Christmas and no other holiday, while 7% celebrate Christmas along with another holiday.

One-in-ten Americans also report having a member of their immediate or extended family who is celebrating a different holiday than they are this December.

The survey found that Americans mix a variety of cultural and religious practices into their Christmas celebrations. “Celebrations of the birth of Jesus in Christianity have always blended the explicitly religious with elements of the contemporary culture,” said Dr. Robert P. Jones, CEO of PRRI. “That roughly equal numbers of Americans both read the story of the birth of Jesus from the Bible and the story of Santa Claus in ‘’Twas the Night before Christmas’ is a continuation of that tradition.”

Americans who celebrate Christmas do so in a variety of ways. Among Americans who celebrate Christmas:

More than 8-in-10 (83%) say they typically watch Christmas movies like “It’s a wonderful life” or “A Christmas Story.”

Roughly two-thirds (66%) report that they usually attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Roughly 6-in-10 (59%) say they sing Christmas carols as part of their holiday celebration. Only about 1-in-4 (26%) say they light advent candles.

Roughly equal numbers say they read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (43%), the famous Santa Clause poem, as read the biblical story about the birth of Jesus (40%) as part of their traditional Christmas celebrations.

Recommended citation:

Jones, Robert P., and Daniel Cox. “Americans Divided over Appropriate Holiday Greetings, Blend Religious and Cultural Holiday Practices.” PRRI. 2010. http://www.prri.org/research/americans-divided-over-appropriate-holiday-greetings-blend-religious-and-cultural-holiday-practices/.