Hot on HuffPost:

See More Stories

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays? Americans Divided on That, Too

4 years ago
  0 Comments Say Something  »
Text Size
As if Americans weren't divided enough, even in this season celebrating peace and good will, the public is split over whether shops should greet customers by saying "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."

Just under half (49 percent) of those surveyed in a new poll said stores should have a "Merry Christmas" greeting policy, while 44 percent say businesses should opt for the more generic "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" out of respect for people of different faiths.

Robert Putnam of Harvard, a leading scholar of religion and co-author of "American Grace: How Religion Unites and Divides Us," said he was surprised at the popularity of the inclusive holiday greeting.

"That represents a major change over the last 50 years toward greater interfaith sensitivity," Putnam told Religion News Service.

But it also means that the debate over the proper holiday salutation has become yet another flashpoint in the tinderbox that is America's ongoing culture war, and in the so-called War on Christmas clash that flares up every December.

A campaign by a Dallas church to develop an online "Grinch list" of stores that don't use "Merry Christmas" was one of this year's more innovative battle tactics.

Not surprisingly, the new poll by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), in partnership with Religion News Service, found that the December greeting dilemma also divides Republicans and Democrats.

Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Republicans say stores should use "Merry Christmas," while nearly six in 10 (58 percent) of Democrats say they should opt for "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings."

One interesting religious split is that nearly 70 percent of white evangelical Protestants support the "Merry Christmas" greeting -- no surprise there -- and white mainline Protestants, generally more liberal, are also supportive, at 57 percent. Yet 55 percent of Catholics, who are usually more in line with mainline Protestants on such cultural issues, prefer that stores use something inclusive like "Happy Holidays."

The PRRI/RNS poll did show that whatever one's greeting preferences, Christmas itself is as popular as almost anything in America today, with 96 percent of respondents saying they celebrate Christmas. Seven percent said they celebrate Christmas along with another holiday.

But Christmas continues to have a strong secular streak, as Americans are more likely to watch movies like "It's a Wonderful Life" (83 percent) than attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (66 percent). And reading "Twas The Night Before Christmas" (43 percent), the poem about Santa Claus (St. Nicholas, if you prefer), is as much a part of family observances as reading the Gospel story about the birth of Jesus (40 percent).

"Celebrations of the birth of Jesus in Christianity have always blended the explicitly religious with elements of the contemporary culture," said Robert P. Jones, head 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."

Our New Approach to Comments

In an effort to encourage the same level of civil dialogue among Politics Daily’s readers that we expect of our writers – a “civilogue,” to use the term coined by PD’s Jeffrey Weiss – we are requiring commenters to use their AOL or AIM screen names to submit a comment, and we are reading all comments before publishing them. Personal attacks (on writers, other readers, Nancy Pelosi, George W. Bush, or anyone at all) and comments that are not productive additions to the conversation will not be published, period, to make room for a discussion among those with ideas to kick around. Please read our Help and Feedback section for more info.



Filter by:
Comments are no longer accepted for this topic.

We have heard for decades how retailers make their profits at the end of the year by cashing in on gift purchases. Well, one way to stop this nonsense over Christmas trees, and Merry Christmas greetings, and Manger scenes, is to stop the buying for one season, namely 2011 Christmas . Instead, have an open house for family and friends. Take your kids sledding, play table games, drink hot chocolate, toast marshmallows in the fireplace, go caroling. Decorate your home, but start on January 1 indocrinating your children into the idea that the next Christmas will be about the meaning of the holiday, and spend it building relationships with family, friends, neighbors, God.

December 19 2010 at 11:52 AM

Politcal correctness will destroy this country. Yes we are a melting pot, having said that it is still the Christmas Season. So MERRY CHRISTMAS to you all. And do not even tell me that people who are not Christian or of any faith tell their children it is not CHRISTMAS DAY but Holiday.........

December 19 2010 at 11:51 AM

Secular movie, "It's a Wonderful Life?" It starts out with prayers and includes an angel as a main character. Isn't that religious? By the way, "holiday" stands for "holy day" and "x-mass" was an early Christian symbol. Sorry, there's no way to escape religion in the season. You secular people are just going to have to accept that it's a religious holiday!

December 19 2010 at 11:36 AM
dc walker

When you live in a country that's as diverse as ours one needs to practice tolerance towards others otherwise one should move to a country that espouses their religion, their politics and their morals.

December 19 2010 at 11:32 AM

The federal government is always worrying about traditions of minorities. But about the American Majority doesn't get much press till elrction time.

December 19 2010 at 11:29 AM +1


December 19 2010 at 11:23 AM
Leon Stark

I usually use the more British, "Happy Christmas" for most of my greetings, but, then again, I am me. As far as the holidays, I greet as best by the time. Hanukkah (or however it is spelled) floats around the calendar as it is scheduled as a "lunar-solar holiday". I greet just before and during the holiday a "Happy Hanukkah" as long as it is discretely separate from Christmas. I wish a "Happy Christmas" between the two, and right after Christmas it's "Happy New Year". I am still uncertain about Kwanzaa, as it was started only in my generation. As I see it Kwanzaa is a secular holiday where the world (At least the Northern Hemisphere) is recognizing the short days and long nights. (It would be the equivalent of summer in the Southern Hemisphere). As I see it, we celebrate at this time of the year, "... these Festivals of Light, to light the darkness of these cold and dark days". May you and yours have a Blessed Season, whatever you celebrate.

December 19 2010 at 11:23 AM
beatles fan

Merry Holidays and a Happy New Year

December 19 2010 at 11:15 AM -5

I have several Jewish friends to whom I say Happy Holidays. All others I wish them A Merry Christmas. Simple.

December 19 2010 at 11:01 AM +4

I prefer Merry Christmas, though I do not believe in organized religion. I grew up decorating a Christmas tree and watching Santa say Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas. It is about tradition, not religion. A time to celebrate with friends and family, with the whole country. And, of course, open Christmas presents and sing Christmas Songs.

If someone says Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, etc, they are simply offering happiness and cheer in their own way, how could any of those be offensive?

December 19 2010 at 10:55 AM +3

Follow Politics Daily

  • Comics
Featuring political comics by Robert and Donna TrussellMore>>
  • Woman UP Video
politics daily videos
Weekly Videos
Woman Up, Politics Daily's Online Sunday ShowMore»
politics daily videos
TV Appearances
Showcasing appearances by Politics Daily staff and contributors.More>>