‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’?

Christmas Day has passed, but we aren’t even half way through the 12 Days of Christmas.

So I don’t feel that I am too far behind the curve in getting to an interesting study on how Americans celebrate Christmas.

A survey by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas (89% celebrate only Christmas).

83% of Americans say they usually watch a Christmas movie like “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

66% say they usually attend a church service on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

According to a release: “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.”

On the contentious question of whether people should be wished Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, respondents were nearly divided.

49% prefer Merry Christmas. 44% like Happy Holidays.

The Institute breaks down the “greeting” findings further:

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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.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.