America Divided: Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

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Jennifer LeClaire

It’s no great
revelation that Americans are divided over what greetings businesses should use
during the December holiday season. But in case you had any doubts, a PRRI/RNS Religion News Survey has made it official.

percent of Americans say stores should use “merry Christmas” this holiday
season, compared to 44 percent who say that they should use more generic “happy
holidays” or “season’s greetings” out of respect for people of different
faiths. The survey reveals large religious, partisan and regional differences
over the appropriateness of different holiday greetings.

“Celebrations of
the birth of Jesus in Christianity have always blended the explicitly religious
with elements of the contemporary culture,” says Robert P.
Jones, CEO 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.”

Here’s how it
breaks down demographics-wise:

  • A majority
    of white evangelical Protestants (69 percent) and white mainline Protestants
    (57 percent) support stores using “merry Christmas.” A majority of Catholics
    (55 percent), however, support stores using more generic greetings like “happy
  • Nearly
    two-thirds (64 percent) of Republicans also support saying “merry Christmas” as
    opposed to more generic greetings. In contrast, nearly 6-in-10 (58 percent)
    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 percent) and the South (54 percent), and
    a plurality (49 percent) of those living in the West say stores and businesses
    should greet customers with “merry Christmas,” while nearly 6-in-10 (58
    percent) Americans living in the Northeast say businesses should use more
    generic greetings.

What about you? Do you say “merry
Christmas,” “happy holidays” or something else?

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