Home > Spotlight Analysis > Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays
Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays
Joanna Piacenza,

The battle of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” is feistier than ever this year. Maryland schools recently changed their “Christmas Break” to “Winter Break.” Texas lawmakers signed a “Merry Christmas Law” that protects the phrases “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Haunukkah” in the state’s public schools. Even major retailers across the country are taking a side—Gap’s a “Merry Christmas” kind of store, whereas stores like Barnes & Noble, Family Dollar, and Pet Smart proclaim “Happy Holidays.”

1216tree_lightsBut how do Americans feel about the cheery phrases? For the most part, they’re divided—but the public sides more and more with nonreligious phrasing. In fact, 49 percent say stores and businesses should greet their customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths, while 43 percent disagree. These numbers are up from three years prior, when 44 percent agreed with using the secular greeting and 49 percent disagreed.

Not surprisingly, there are strong divides along religious lines when it comes to “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.” A majority (62 percent) of white evangelicals Protestants disagree that stores and business should greet their customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths, while 29 percent agree. And, as expected, a majority (58 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated agree the secular greeting should be use, while one-third (33 percent) disagree. That said, one would expect the religiously unaffiliated to side more heavily with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings,” but it seems they’re more in the Christmas spirit than anticipated!

Want more holiday cheer? Here are some more Christmas, er, holiday, facts:

  • In 2013, 90 percent of Americans said they would be celebrating Christmas. But there are other things to celebrate, too! Minorities of Americans said they would celebrate Advent (9 percent), Hanukkah (5 percent), Winter solstice (3 percent), and Kwanzaa (2 percent). Four percent said nope, we’re not celebrating any holiday in December.
  • Of those who celebrate Christmas, 42 percent celebrate it in a strongly religious way, 31 percent in a somewhat religious way, and 26 percent in a not too religious way.
  • A majority (59 percent) of Americans will attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Day, but that number is down from 66 percent in 2010.
  • Most Americans (63 percent) won’t read the Christmas story from the Bible, although some (36 percent) will. That number is nearly reversed when looking at white evangelicals Protestants—68 percent say they will, while 32 percent say they won’t.
  • When it comes to the Christmas story—the virgin birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, etc—49 percent of Americans say it is historically accurate, while 40 percent say it is a theological story.
  • A large majority (79 percent) will watch Christmas movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story.”