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. Jeff

    Last time I checked, Dec 25 is CHRISTMAS DAY, a FEDERAL HOLIDAY. It is NOT called Holiday Day, or Santa Day, it IS Christmas Day. Period. End of story. To even have a debate on which is better, or less offending, is ridiculous. IT IS CHRISTMAS DAY, and I will say MERRY CHRISTMAS to anyone I wish and will not care in the least if they want to get offended by it. That is their problem. They can ignore me, or plug their ears if they want. I don't care. CHRISTMAS DAY is a federally approved holiday and I will say it out-loud as long as I breath.

    December 25, 2011 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  2. Tammy

    Commercialism is what's really degraded CHRISTmas, for everyone. I will ALWAYS say Merry CHRISTmas. If you looked at the age group that prefers to say "Happy Holidays" you'll see they're still young and was raised in a world that has been NOTHING BUT PC all their lives. Sometimes, as a Christian, I feel as if I'm in Roman times when it was shunned, and Christians were being persecuted for being Christian. I honestly believe that if we aren't careful we will go back to Roman Times mentality, and that's when Christ will come again.

    December 25, 2011 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  3. Proud member of "Global Zero"

    @ Jeff...we don't get offended, we ignore people like you. It is people like you that make me wonder what Christians actually believe besides, "if you are not like me, I can hate in the name of religion".

    December 25, 2011 09:19 am at 9:19 am |
  4. MarkyGa

    What far right wingnuts don't get is that Happy Holidays covers EVERYTHING: Xmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, Happy New Year... the WORKS.

    December 25, 2011 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  5. Gabriel

    Merry Christmas, and if you don't celebrate Christmas just opt not to answer or answer with Happy Holidays. Tired of being politically correct everywhere and all the time, it's the birth of Christ, it's Christmas so Merry CHRISTMAS

    December 25, 2011 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Joe from Ohio

    yeah, keep Christ in Christmas....so we can sell more Xbox's at Walmart. Who really cares? The bible thumpers don't seem to have a problem with Santa, and Frosty, and the elves, and flying reindeer? How many people even put a Jesus ornament on their Christmas tree?

    December 25, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  7. wwf

    I refuse to deny my own identity, what I believe and who I am, just to be "political correct" and not run the risk of offending someone. If I say "Merry Christmas" to someone and they say "Happy Holidays" back? Fine. I they don't say anything at all? I sure as heck am not going to lose any sleep over it. Political correctness is destroying this country from the inside out. Everytime we give in (pick any issue you want) out of fear of hurtine someones feelings or rights they don't have in the first place, we loose more of what we are. We don't need to worry about any country in the Middle East, Asia, or any where else bringing us down. We are doing it to ourselves politically and morally.
    I hope all of you here had a very Merry Christmas and will have a healthy and safe New Year.

    December 25, 2011 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  8. conoclast

    What an irrelevant tempest-in-a-teapot! Who cares what an underwhealming percentage thinks about what to call Christmas. I'm an atheist; I call it Christmas - with a capital "C" even! 'Tis the Season, not the nomenclature!

    December 25, 2011 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  9. Kevin

    Merry Christmas everyone. From our house to yours!

    December 25, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. weusall

    I'm sure if god exists, he doesn't appreciate all the finger pointing coming from any/either/all sides. If you're not a Christian, and someone says "Merry Christmas" to you, then accept it what for what it is... good will toward a fellow human being. Likewise, if someone says "Happy Holidays" to you even tho you celebrate a specific holiday (Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, etc.), take it for what it is... good will toward a fellow human being. I'm an atheist, and I have no problem when someone wishes me a Merry Christmas. The wish is above all to be "merry," and I think it's a pretty nice wish.

    December 25, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. Jeff

    So "Merry Christmas" has hate written all over it, huh? So I say "Merry Christmas" on a federal holiday named "Christmas", and I am the hater. Seems like the hater is YOU, seeing as how you want to ignore me for saying something that has the same connotation as "have a happy Christmas day". What is hateful about that? Personally, I am an athiest, but I don't hold my non-belief over people's head, as though I am superior. You might need some anger management from one of your PC friends.

    December 25, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  12. Midwest

    How can people be so foolish and stupid? Happy Holidays has been around FOREVER!! It is meant to shorten the traditional holiday greeting of "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" not to attack christmas (which is as continually ridiculous holiday in itself). So get your arrogant heads out of your behinds and quit getting personally offended because somebody doesnt say Merry Christmas. Thats like somebody getting mad calling it the 4th of July instead of Independence Day. Absurd, ignorant religious fools making a fight out of something that certainly is not a worthy topic.

    December 25, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  13. Ennos

    Merry Christmas!

    December 25, 2011 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. Larry Libater

    I am of the Jewish faith. When I greet people on the street at this time of year, I say "Merry Christmas" unless I know the person I'm greeting to be Jewish or Muslim.

    Charleston, SC

    December 25, 2011 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  15. Catzie53

    MERRY CHRISTMAS! I wonder what happened to tolerance? MERRY CHRISTMAS! Why is it it seems only Christians who are not threatening to cut off heads or blow up people are target for attacks from atheists (whom have NO tolerance, just what "I" want because it's my right!), are targeted for attacks from Politically Groups (NO tolerance). It seems the only people with tolerance are those being attacked! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

    December 25, 2011 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  16. Catzie53

    Don't know if CNN will post my earlier comment, so I'll say Merry Christmas!

    December 25, 2011 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  17. GI Joe

    We sure have a bunch of people in this country that nit pick ANYTHING they can to whine about.

    Merry Christmas to all - it's a pagan holiday anyway. Christ was NOT born Dec. 25.

    December 25, 2011 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. Catzie53

    Merry Christmas!

    December 25, 2011 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  19. Joe

    It's very simple, If you celebrate Christmas you say Merry Christmas to everyone, if you celebrate Hanukah you say Happy Hanukah to everyone etc, etc, etc. These greeting aren't meant to convert anyone to my faith it is an expression of my wish that they feel the same joy that I do and are able to share time with family and friends even if it is for different reasons then me. I celebrate Christmas but when a Jewish person wishes me a Happy Hanukah I don't get offended and correct him, I say thank you and wish him the same because I understand that he is wishing me well.

    Merry Christmas everyone

    December 25, 2011 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  20. sara

    Lord have mercy. Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays .... God is not the problem, you are.!

    December 25, 2011 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  21. WrshipWarior

    Nobody seems to have a problem with saying the word "Christmas" or promoting Christmas in July... so why is this time of year such an issue for some people?

    MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

    December 25, 2011 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  22. Atleastitsadayoff

    Anon makes a good point. If you're celebrating the religious holiday and you are addressing others who are doing the same, tell them "Merry Christmas!" If you're not sure, or you are addressing a stranger, use "Happy Holidays!" If you're not celebrating the religious holiday, it should always be "Happy Holidays!", or some equivalent, polite greeting. What should NOT be happening is religious folks insisting on saying Merry Christmas to someone that they KNOW does not believe in fairy tales.

    December 25, 2011 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  23. Jeff

    Today is CHRISTMAS DAY. Not "Holiday Day". So, MERRY CHRISTMAS, even to the haters who want desperately to hate something, anything.

    December 25, 2011 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  24. Jean Sartre, Milwaukee, WI

    I think the overriding issue here, especially for us rational people, is the insidious and pernicious intrusion of religion and faith based organizations in our government, our oaths, and, indeed, our very lives. Religion, et al, simply has no place in our Republic and Secular government. We do not make National Holidays for the Wiccans, Jews, Muslims, Mormons and it makes absolutely no sense at all to make Christmas a National Holiday for Christians.

    December 25, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  25. Jeff

    Hey GI Joe, I think people know Jesus wasn't born on Dec 25th. They don't know exactly, so they use that day to celebrate it. What is wrong with that? People born on Feb 29 celebrate their birthday on the 28th, but it ain't their birthday. Is that bogus too?

    December 25, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
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