Americans still prefer 'Merry Christmas' over 'Happy Holidays'
December 24th, 2011
10:26 AM ET
6 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. Max

    Happy Holidays! We should include everyone. Christmas is for the Christians.

    December 25, 2011 05:25 am at 5:25 am |
  2. Max

    America is a nation of reason and law, that concept isn't compatible with ancient myths. "Merry CHRISTmas" is deeply offensive. I wish we could change the name of the holiday.

    December 25, 2011 05:30 am at 5:30 am |
  3. Max

    It didn't bother me one way or the other... if Christmas was about love and peace and Santa Claus, I really won't care, but this push to make it CHRISTmas... now I care. Now the word is like acid on my tongue.

    December 25, 2011 05:33 am at 5:33 am |
  4. p-loc

    I am an atheist. When I wish well being and happiness upon someone, it is without regard to my beliefs. If I know that you celebrate Christmas, I will usually use " Merry Christmas and have a great holiday". If I am unsure what December ceremonies you might partake in, "Have a great holiday" is par for the course. This time of year represents similar things to those of many religions, as well as those who are devoid of religion. I certainly admire the thoughts of peace and happiness being exchanged amongst all Americans (and humans in general). It appears to this non-believer that any genuine wishes for health, safety, and good-fortune would be a welcome gift to all, regardless of their phrasing. The "anti-christmas" story is just more fodder for those that seek to inhibit America from maintaining its greatness. Their "god" only knows why they would continue to act in divisive and vindictive ways that hinder our extraordinary nation.

    December 25, 2011 05:38 am at 5:38 am |
  5. Jokesterer

    This is very important.

    December 25, 2011 05:59 am at 5:59 am |
  6. Vivek Chaudhary

    Only idiots can say 'Happy Holidays'. I ask them why do you say holiday greetings in December only? We have 10 more holidays in the year, you could say that around those holidays are as well. I am sick of being politically correct. At stores, they do not mind offending 65%+ more people just to please 30%+.

    Having said that I wouldn't offend others who are not Christians (or mind the word Happy Christmas). if you are so conscious about that you could say Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays , that way both are covered.

    December 25, 2011 06:44 am at 6:44 am |
  7. Josh

    I am a Pagan, and so I have no belief in Christ as a messiah. However, I still say "Merry Christmas" to those who say it to me. It is the spirit of the season, whether you say "Merry Christmas," "Happy Holidays," or anything else. So, from your friendly local Pagan, Merry Christmas to all!

    December 25, 2011 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  8. leftover

    I only say "Merry Christmas" to people I know are Christians.
    I only say "Happy Hanukkah" to people I know are Jewish.
    "Happy Holidays" or, most often, "Peace" is usually what is said. "My compliments of the season" is what is written.

    December 25, 2011 06:52 am at 6:52 am |
  9. Asquian

    Since when is a biased poll being biased news?

    December 25, 2011 07:04 am at 7:04 am |
  10. Lori

    I don't understand what the big deal is...If you are Jewish, tell me "Happy Hanukkah" If you are Christian, tell me "Merry Christmas" If you are African American, tell me "Joyous Kwanzaa" If you don't prefer those tell me "Happy Holidays". I won't be offended. I'll just be glad you took time to say something nice to me.

    December 25, 2011 07:21 am at 7:21 am |
  11. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    I am working in a major retailer for added income. As people come through my line I can usually tell what holiday they celebrate. When I am not sure..(Christians wearing crosses with stars of David) I used to wish them a "Happy Holiday". No longer...I have been lectured, yelled at, and left standing with their purchases. Now, my family reared as Conservative Jews have had some of the same attitude. My mother is the example. For the longest time she would not say anything except "thank you" in response. As she got older she would correct people that wished her a Merry Christmas but would not get angry about it.
    My experience has been not so pleasant. I can tell from some of the other posts here...people need to start understanding that not everyone is the same. I don't care if you are the majority religion in this country...our constitution guarantees us the freedom to practice any religion.

    I will never wish anyone a Happy Holiday again...most Christians are really mean about that....from now on.....and I have already started...."Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!".

    December 25, 2011 07:39 am at 7:39 am |
  12. PNP, OP

    "Holiday" comes from "holy day," so "Happy Holidays" is not a secular greeting.

    Fr. Philip, OP (

    December 25, 2011 07:46 am at 7:46 am |
  13. dogs rule

    Happy Holidays, everyone. People who are not "Christian" have holidays at the same time, and deserve to be included in the wish. THIS WAS AMERICA BRFORE IT WAS "CHRISTIAN". And we are in our 70s!! Season's Greetings to all, and to all a good night!

    December 25, 2011 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  14. lmori

    Whats the matter with these people. You dont have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas. Japan cellebrates Christmas and that country is 99 % Buddhist. Im not a celtic druid but I still cellebrate halloween. Im not jewish but I still say Happy Hannakah. people need to stop fabricating ways of being offended.

    December 25, 2011 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  15. Mr. Sinister

    No one is forcing Christians not to say "Merry Christmas," but they seem hell-bent on forcing others to say it, and that is precisely why I will NOT say it. Besides, the Winter Solstice was a PAGAN holiday celebrating the rebirth of the Sun God long before Jesus was born and long after that, too, until Christians ripped off the holiday. As such, if Christians want to play righteous, they should follow the Jehovah's Witnesses' example by not celebrating it at all instead of quibbling over what to call the holiday!

    December 25, 2011 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  16. Bill S.

    Merry Christmas!

    December 25, 2011 08:10 am at 8:10 am |
  17. psarasota

    Christmas is a cristian holiday. If there was no christmas there would be no holidays. Christmas started the december holidays. Im sick of this "politicaly correct" garbage. if you dont believe in christmas, fine. Dont buy a tree, dont put a star on the top, dont buy presents, dont do anything but celebrate your own religion and stop complaining.

    December 25, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  18. dogs rule

    PS–And while we're at it: We are Roman Catholic as well. People who call themselves "Christians" apparently think themselves so "special" that they want to withhold season's good wishes from everyone else who has holidays in December! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

    December 25, 2011 08:15 am at 8:15 am |
  19. Liz

    Here's what I know: Christmas or "The Holidays" is a topic that has been so overwrought with argument and dissension that the simple messages of kindness and compassion and peace are becoming over-shadowed. Glad I was a kid when I was and glad my kids were kids when they were. This generation is welcome to debate and squabble it out over semantics.

    Now, I'm going to make dinner for Santa Claus and tell him "Merry Christmas." That's what today is.

    December 25, 2011 08:16 am at 8:16 am |
  20. Canadian Jim

    The word Holiday, comes from the two words Holy and day. So even if you wish someone "Happy Holidays" you're still wishing them "Happy Holy days." Western culture is born out of Christianity, so suck it up. It's part of the cultural motiff.

    December 25, 2011 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  21. Happy Holidays

    Happy/Merry (your preference here). It's a season of happiness. Why spoil it with trying to make it a wedge issue.

    December 25, 2011 08:33 am at 8:33 am |
  22. Anne

    I think we should cancel CHRISTmas because we do not want God in America anymore. That way we can all work during this time since there would be no CHRISTmas and we can cancel EASTER, another Christian holiday. Christians stand up for your rights and remember this is a democracy, we do not need to make exceptions for the few they can move to another country. Yes, Non- Christains go ahead and bash me I know you expect us to roll over and be meek but we have only one cheek to turn.MERRY CHRISTMAS.

    December 25, 2011 08:43 am at 8:43 am |
  23. whatiswrongwithpeople

    Who cares? Why is this even in the news? If people have a serious problem with "Merry Christmas" they should get out of America. If you take religion *that* seriously, then you should really get your head checked. Sorry but this news is getting real old.

    December 25, 2011 08:54 am at 8:54 am |
  24. ZB

    Happy Christmas, and thank you for celebrating my birthday by shopping 'till you drop for a bunch of useless junk made in China that has helped put millions of American Workers out of work and given China trillions of dollars to build up their military and economy while destroying ours.. Oh, and btw, I wasn't born on December 25th, so next time please get the date right.

    December 25, 2011 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  25. Eagle One

    It's Christmas so Merry Christmas. I've never known a Jewish person who had an issue with Merry Christmas. It's only the Godless, atheists and politically correct secular folks who have an issue and who really cares what they think.

    December 25, 2011 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
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