Claims over the so-called “War on Christmas” erupt nearly every winter and, it would seem, with more vigor every time. This year, Starbucks’ #RedCup was the principal perpetrator; last year, it was many public schools’ relabeling of “Christmas break” to “holiday break.”
Using findings from a 2013 PRRI report, we took a look at where Americans stand on a key part of the “War on Christmas” debate: the use of “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays.”
For the most part, the public is divided, but Americans are increasingly siding with the secular greeting. Nearly half (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 2010, when 44 percent agreed with using the secular greeting and 49 percent disagreed.
Not surprisingly, there are strong divides along religious lines. A majority (62 percent) of white evangelical Protestants disagree that 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 only 29 percent agree. A majority (58 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated agree the secular greeting should be used, while one-third (33 percent) disagree.
- In 2013, 90 percent of Americans said they would be celebrating Christmas. Minorities of Americans said they would celebrate Advent (9 percent), Hanukkah (5 percent), Winter solstice (3 percent), and Kwanzaa (2 percent). Four percent said they are not celebrating any holidays 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.”