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. Jeff

    Look at all the love that emanates from the saying of Allah Akbar, just before they blow themselves up and kill as many people as they can.

    December 25, 2011 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  2. treblemaker

    There is a difference between the holiday season and Christmas Day. As for me, I prefer the holiday season–right up to 6pm Christmas Eve. Then it all stops! Then it's time to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the Holy Night when God gave us his Son to give hope to human beings the world over. During the day, we get to be thankful once again that we're alive, no matter what the gifts we give or receive, and that we can share it with the people that we love. For those who are single, it's better to help those less fortunate than be morose and consumed with being alone. No matter how it is, I wish everyone out there a Merry Christmas to all the believers, and a Happy Holiday to those who don't.

    December 25, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  3. Just to be nice

    This isn't that difficult to get right. If you know someone well enough to know his or her religious or ethnic background, customs, and family preferences, greet them appropriately. For example, I always say "Merry Christmas!" or "Happy Hannukah!" to persons known to celebrate them. For anyone else, it's "Happy Holidays!" or "Season's Greetings!"

    December 25, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  4. t-partys are 4 little girls

    How any republican can call themself christians is beyond belief. Everyone knows that they are the most hateful people on earth.

    December 25, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. B

    happy holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (chrismahanukwanzakah)

    December 25, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  6. Lauren

    We're a land of AMERICANS. Not Indians, Mexicans, Chinese, Japanese, etc.
    In GOD we trust. One nation UNDER GOD. We're not going to conform Merry Christmas. Its stupid. If you want to get angry about us not saying it, Go back to your country. No one will say it there. We're a land of the free. Not land of the pushovers.


    December 25, 2011 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  7. Michael

    Happy Holidays! Why? Because religion has no right to impose its beliefs on hope.

    December 25, 2011 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  8. ren

    we get to have a holiday off for xmas because we were here first, simple like this. go to a muslim country and complain about not getting xmas as a day off and see how far that gets you. btw, far more people have been killed in the name of "religion" than any war looking for political gains. 'if you don't believe what I believe I will kill you' seems to be the way of the future, it sure has been in the past. I find it so much more comforting to be 100% atheist, only myself, my family and my fellow man and woman to believe in. you should try it.

    December 25, 2011 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  9. Jeff

    Has anyone ever done a study to determine the number of times a suicide bomber has said "Merry Christmas" just before blowing themselves up and killing others? How about "Allah Akbar", just before they push the button? TOLERANCE? To these Allah Akbar people, tolerance is what YOU'RE supposed to have FOR THEM, not THEM for YOU. Remember that.

    December 25, 2011 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  10. Bill

    It seems to me that the true Christmas greeting is, "will that be Visa or MasterCard?"

    December 25, 2011 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  11. cedaly1968

    I have never understood the confusion. It's Christmas, the time that Christians celebrate the birth of JesusChrist. Mery Christmas to all.

    December 25, 2011 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  12. Clyde.s.Dale

    MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!!!! Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you have a great December 25th.

    December 25, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  13. Jeff

    Religion IN America imposes NOTHING on you. That is what they do in Saudi Arabia and Iran and Yemen and Oman. Last time I checked, NO ONE in this country was getting cuffed and shackled and send to jail for being a non-believer. That is what is done in the religion of Barack Obama's birth.

    December 25, 2011 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  14. Larry L

    Importent social issues are hunger, war, poverty, education, child abuse, environmental pollution, homeless people, healthcare and the plight of the elderly. If somebody wishes us well over the holiday season let's just appreciate the fact that they're not being hateful or rude. Let it go.

    December 25, 2011 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  15. Mike

    Come on cnn. Front page link reads "Ticker: U.S. split over holiday greeting"

    Article states that 2/3 of Americans prefer 'Merry Christmas'.

    By your understanding of the word 'split', I could state "Americans split on eating babies." because technically there is at least 1 person somewhere that likes eating babies.

    Dramatic example, but hey ... it's your misleading link, not mine.

    December 25, 2011 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  16. Larry R

    Is this really so difficult? If you know the person is Christian then Merry Christmas. Otherwise Happy Holliday. And for those who say it's Christmas time, it is also Channukah time and Kwanza time. I am Jewish and not offended by Merry Christmas but out of respect to those are not Christian I prefer "Happy Holidays" which also includes New Year. There is no "war on Christmas," just a recognition that other holidays are being celebrated

    December 25, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  17. Al

    Why not, out of respect for your fellow man, wish Christians a Merry Christmas, just as we all wish other religions well on their respective holidays? Why does it HAVE to be a choice?

    December 25, 2011 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  18. goodlife

    i would advise exchange religious greetings only with those who you know personally and know them to happily belong to that religion. (some people are born into christianity and not happy to be christians, and they call their fir tree an agnostic bush.) as to greeting the strangers, we should act in the spirit of separation of church and state, and just say happy holidays. most christians are kind people, and they are fully concious that these holidays actually are / were originally part of the traditions of the pagans whom the christians had annihilated, holocaust style. so many christians feel guilty, as the germans do about nazism, during these jolly days, stolen from the pagans.

    December 25, 2011 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  19. wanderer

    ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holiday’ is meaningless as far as the Truth is concerned. They are just words. Word has no validity and can’t validate anything. It only matters between the speaker and listener.

    December 25, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  20. Primus

    People who don't celebrate Christmas? That's fine. Just don't take the day off.

    December 25, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  21. RamessesII

    Seems simple enough to me. It was always "Merry Christmas!" And that's what I'm wishing people. I can always wish 'em a "Happy New Year!" later on, or something else, if I prefer. Live with it, or don't have what I wish you.

    December 25, 2011 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. blake

    Sounds like a pretty strong preference for Merry Christmas to me. Just the PC crowd and atheists rejecting that.

    December 25, 2011 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. Paul1963

    Every year I send out cards that say "Happy Holidays" inside. They always have non-religious imagery associated with Christmas, because that's the holiday I celebrate. They say "Happy Holidays" because my friends and family include a wide range of faiths and observances, and I want to respect them. I've never had a complaint.
    I don't have a problem with being wished a "Merry Christmas." I also don't have a problem with being told to "have a nice holiday," or wished "Happy holidays," or any other variant. I DO have a problem with people who respond to some form of the latter greeting with "Merry Christmas. I SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS." Because, you know, nothing captures the true spirit of the season like wishing someone a merry Christmas in a tone of voice that suggests your real message is "screw you."

    December 25, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  24. Zahir

    The fact that it is a point of contention is in itself a problem. Whether someone says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, that person is wishing you well, so why complain about it even if you don't celebrate Christmas? A friend of mine put it best: "If you're offended because someone says Merry Christmas instead of Happy Holidays, you're an idiot. If you're offended becuase someone says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas, you're an even bigger idiot."

    December 25, 2011 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. enough of the wicked "O"

    thats because we dont want to bide to the "O" phylosophy and not believe in God and we are not muslim like obama and We The American People Believe in God and In God We Trust.Down with the wanna b e dictator.

    December 25, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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