By Aaron Earls
What do Americans believe about Christmas and how we celebrate the annual holiday? Here are seven facts about our holiday celebrations.
1. Virtually everyone celebrates Christmas.
Around 9 in 10 Americans will celebrate Christmas this year, far outpacing other seasonal holidays, according to PRRI. But the celebrations aren’t limited to Christians.
Pew Research found 81 percent of non-Christians in America celebrate Christmas, including 87 percent of the religiously unaffiliated.
2. Most believe it should be a religious holiday.
Almost 8 in 10 Americans say Christmas should be more about Jesus, according to Lifeway Research. They also found 70 percent believe “Christmas would be a better experience if it had a more Christian focus.”
According to PRRI, 72 percent say they personally celebrate Christmas as at least a somewhat religious holiday, with 43 percent saying it’s strongly religious.
3. We’re split over “Happy Holidays” vs. “Merry Christmas.”
When asked by PRRI if stores should greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths, 47 percent of Americans agree and 46 percent disagrees.
Lifeway Research found 29 percent of Americans believe it is offensive to use “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”
4. Most are OK with public religious displays.
Frequently, the Christmas season features legal challenges to explicitly Christian displays on government property or performances at schools.
Lifeway Research found 86 percent believe children in public schools should be allowed to sing religious Christmas songs in school-sponsored musicals.
They are a little more split over physical holiday displays on government property, according to Pew. A plurality (44 percent) are fine with nativity scenes or other Christian symbols on government property whether they are accompanied by symbols of other faiths or not.
Almost 3 in 10 (28 percent) say the symbols should be allowed, but only with symbols of other faiths. Only 20 percent say religious symbols should not be allowed at all.
5. Churches will be open.
Despite Christmas falling on a Sunday this year, almost 9 in 10 pastors (89 percent) say their churches will have worship services on Christmas Day, according to Lifeway Research.
More than 7 in 10 (71 percent) will have a Christmas Eve service and 63 percent will have services on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
6. And most people want to go during Christmastime.
It’s a good thing churches will be open because most people want to go to church during Christmas. According to Lifeway Research, more than 6 in 10 Americans (63 percent) say the holiday season should include a trip to church.
Lifeway Research also found 61 percent say they typically attend church during Christmastime. And of those who don’t attend, 57 percent said it is likely they would attend if someone invited them.
7. Americans believe the Christmas story is true.
People may be inclined to attend because they accept the biblical nativity story as historical fact. According to Pew:
- 73 percent believe Jesus was born to a virgin
- 81 percent believe Jesus was laid in a manger
- 75 percent believe wise men guided by a star brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh
- 74 percent believe an angel announced the birth of Jesus to shepherds
Lifeway Research found 56 percent of Americans believe God’s Son existed before Jesus was born in Bethlehem.
AARON EARLS (Aaron.Earls@Lifeway.com) is online editor of Facts & Trends.