Americans still prefer 'Merry Christmas' over 'Happy Holidays'
December 24th, 2011
10:26 AM ET
3 years ago

Americans still prefer 'Merry Christmas' over 'Happy Holidays'

(CNN) - For many, it's an annual December conundrum - greet people with the traditional "Merry Christmas" or the secular "Happy Holidays"?

It's a small decision with seemingly oversized cultural significance, coming amid pressure to "keep Christ in Christmas" while also remaining inclusive of people who don't celebrate the Christian holiday.

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A new poll from Marist and the Knights of Columbus shows that nationwide, two-thirds of Americans prefer to go with "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays." There is a divide, however, between Americans living on the East and West Coasts, and Midwesterners and people living the South.

Fifty-six percent of Northeasterners and 57% of West Coasters said "Merry Christmas" was their greeting of choice. In the Midwest, 70% chose "Merry Christmas," and in the South 69% felt the same.

Older generations were also more likely to choose "Merry Christmas," while 50% of millennials (people ages 18-30) preferred to make merry with "Happy Holidays."

Americans over 65 overwhelming chose "Merry Christmas" over "Happy Holidays," 74% to 22%.

The Marist-Knights of Columbus poll was taken by phone November 8-10 from 1,026 adults. The sampling error was plus or minus three percentage points.


Filed under: Polls • Religion
soundoff (337 Responses)
  1. Jim Johnson

    Americans who celebrate Christmas prefer it... but the poll should also ask "Do you know that some people don't celebrate Christmas? If so, what would you say to them and what would you like them to say to you?"

    December 24, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. sick of republican phonies

    I wonder how the questions were worded, as it is two Catholic groups doing the survey. The Knights of Columbus have been putting "Keep Christ In Christmas" billboards up for decades, so I guess you can figure what they would like the poll to show.

    December 24, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  3. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    My preference is that foreign owned media, Fox, stop their their annual, "War on Christmas" lies. Their outrage was absent when "W" sent pictures of Barney in the yard, and Reagan sent pictures of the oval office. Other than that, Merry Christmas.

    December 24, 2011 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  4. Anon

    It depends. If I'm telling my family, I'll say "Merry Christmas." If I see some person at a store, I'll say "Happy Holidays".

    December 24, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. sick of republican phonies

    As a family of recovering Catholic non- believers, we have no trouble celebrating a totally secular Christmas. Got no problem with "Merry Christmas" greetings; Christmas passed into the secular consumer realm long ago. Most of the manifestations of Xmas- the Xmas tree, Mistletoe, Yule log, even the character of "St. Nick" came from our pagan heritage. You guys can keep Jesus, we'll take the Thomas Nast/Coca Cola Santa with all the "holiday" trimmings.

    December 24, 2011 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  6. WireweirdinSF

    Why is it that Obama and the democrat liberals hate hard working taxpayers so much? He arrange to steal money from Social Security to give to the non working, non taxpaying drug addicts and corrupt union bosses and then flies off for a $4 million dollar vacation in Hawaii using our tax dollars and I cannot ever get a day off because of my taxes. And the liberally biased press praises him as he brags how he sure triumphed over the Republicans. He and the corrupt unions won, not hard working Americans.

    December 24, 2011 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  7. steve

    How about if you want to say Merry Christmas go ahead and if you want to say Happy Holidays go ahead. The people getting offended by either may seriously need medication or therapy.

    December 24, 2011 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  8. NM

    Yup.......a trillion dollar debt ridden nation, rampant foreclosures......rising unemployment and all people are concerned with greetings!!

    December 24, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  9. MICKYD

    I for one, only use 'Happy Holidays' as a greeting because I respect others religious views! Is that UNCHRISTIAN?

    December 24, 2011 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  10. Seattle Sue

    I say use the greeting you prefer and stop all the silly arguments.

    December 24, 2011 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  11. Anonymous

    Merry Christmas

    December 24, 2011 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. Logic in LA

    Like everything in life- know your audience. For a casual greeting Happy holidays works because this time of year encompasses more tan one holiday- hence the "S" at the end. But if it is aclose friend, family member or neighbor you will see before New Years and you know they celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas is perfectly acceptable. Even for a Jewish friend, in December 24th or 25th, if it is not in the midst of Chanukah, like this year, to wish them a Merry Christmas since they will be off from work and doing something out of the ordinary, wishing them to be "merry" that day is also perfectly OK.
    We need to think of what the word mean before we use them. And maybe just stop making such a big deal out of what others say but what they mean. So Happy Saturday to those that read this.!

    December 24, 2011 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. diridi

    Retailers prefer Dollars..."Dollars".

    December 24, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  14. Bob DeGaetano

    It's important to take a stand for your beliefs. Christ is the ultimate portrayal and embodiment of love for mankind. Christmas IS only because of Him! No other reason. So... Merry Christmas to all and goodwill to mankind!

    December 24, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  15. Keith in Austin

    Enough of the political correctness for a day! Merry Christmas to all!

    December 24, 2011 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  16. Patrick

    It's not really a Christian holiday. Evidence suggests that if Christ existed at all he was born in fall. The date was decided some 300 to 400 years after he died. The date was chosen because of the pagan and general solstice celebrations going on at that time of year. Others hold up things like the worship of Mithra in the roman empire as giving part of the christian myth. You can call it what ever you want but either way you are celebrating the solstice. You are gathering, feasting and lighting lights in the darkest time of year. You are welcoming the turning of trend of shorter days into longer days. Happy Holidays to all and dance naked if you like.

    December 24, 2011 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  17. WilmaWonka

    For Pete's sake, Say the greeting you're comfortable with and don't get your panties in a wad if the greeting you're given isn't completely in line with what you believe. I'm a non-believer but I'd take a "Merry Christmas" over a "go f*** yourself" any day of the week. Lighten up people!!

    December 24, 2011 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  18. Random Event

    Merry Christmas is fine. It only reflects cultural values and tradition, and most rational people (non-religious) know that it doesn't necessarily denote any belief in the religion itself, which is silly. It's the equivalent of saying Happy Santa Claus or Peter Pan or Cinderella. Or Happy Halloween.

    December 24, 2011 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  19. Mike

    Aren't the Nights of Columbus a Christian organization? Let's get an impartial group to do the survey and see if the results are different. If people want to keep the Christ in Christmas, that's great. Just do not diminish the significant holidays that are celebrated by other faiths at the same time of year. Do you se Jews wishing everyone a happy Hanukkah to everyone, no matter what the other person faith is? No, because it is disrespectful to impose their faith on other who is not of the same faith.

    December 24, 2011 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  20. Mike

    It's Merry Christmas people! This whole "inclusiveness" nonsense is ridiculous considering the founding of our nation WAS based upon biblical values. I understand Democrats don't want to admit this, because they would much prefer people being dependent upon their politics for solutions, rather than the almighty. I am not an overly religious person, but if you want to come to America, learn our values, our culture, and our language. There is no hate in that statement, just a fact. Name me one other country where they bend to every liberal idea or liberal "need" in the name of inclusiveness? That's what I thought....Merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  21. CSher

    There was an incident recently at a local Target. The clerk wished a woman "Happy Holidays" and the woman INSISTED he wish her a "Merry Christmas" – even though the clerk told her he was jewish. People like that is why more and more people are just not wishing anyone a happy or merry anything.
    PEOPLE! Whatever blessings or wishes you receive you should accept the spirit graciously and thank the giver. They are giving it from their heart, be it Christian, Jewish, Pagan, or Atheist.

    December 24, 2011 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  22. AGW

    And what about about the demographics of their sample? The KOC are known to do polling about Catholicism. If they drew their sample from this demographic the results are skewed. Also, the sample size is hardly representative of the entirety of the U.S.to draw such broad generalizations. I really doubt the validity of this study.

    December 24, 2011 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  23. Bob T.

    This holiday has its origin with the Winter Solstice celebrations which were going on thousands of years BC...complete with decorated trees and exchanged gifts. Christians hi-jacked the celebration in 325AD when they arbitrarily decided that Dec. 25 was Jesus' birthday. "Happy Holidays".

    December 24, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  24. Shepherd

    Not a surprising finding when you consider the source of the poll. Still, the poll is completely unnecessary because what Christian would prefer "Happy Holidays" over "Merry Christmas". And given the fact that 78% of America is Christian...we really didn't need this poll to tell us what is blatantly obvious.

    December 24, 2011 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  25. Steve Godsall-Myers

    I have always considered "Merry Christmas" as secular, given the use of the word "Christmas" by so many parts of our secular society beginning in November. I use "Blessed Christmas" as a religious greeting. I do not see making it an issue - folks should use a greeting they are comfortable with and receive a friendly greeting with the friendliness intended.

    December 24, 2011 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
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