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. gg

    happy holidays was pushed by corp.s to get everbody no matter what religion or non religion to spend money

    December 24, 2011 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  2. Lise Quinn

    Christians are arrogant at the least, and a$5ho!!es for the most part. They expect that a.) no other religion is even allowed to be acknowledged by demanding everyone say only "Merry Christmas" to everyone regardless of those peoples' religious choices. b.), that it is a personal attack on them and their religion if someone dare say "Happy Holidays".
    They're the ones who should be brought up on hate charges. Why don't they keep there damned religion in their church and let the rest of the country be.

    December 24, 2011 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  3. Dave

    The entire "Keep Christ in Christmas" spiel is a joke anyway, Christ in no way originated the holiday. It came out of the pagan celebrations of the Winter Solstice; Christians that ignorantly claim that Jesus' birth is what CAUSED the holiday should be forced to do the research and reading to learn the hard facts, such as how Jesus was born mid-spring, not in the early weeks of winter. Take the Christ out of Christmas, please.

    December 24, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  4. Mark

    It would be interesting to see the breakdown by political affiliation. I would speculate that the democrats would have a higher percentage referring happy holidays while the republicans would have a higher percentage preferring merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  5. Donovan

    Christmas is a holiday that the christians STOLE from the Pagans. It's a Pagan holiday. Plain and simple. Christmas is an abomination.

    I will GLADLY wish people a "Happy Holidays" because you don't always know the faith of the person you're speaking to. It's arrogant to assume everyone is christian and MANY faiths have a holiday during this season, around the same time. I consider people who wish random strangers "Merry Christmas" EXTREMELY RUDE.

    December 24, 2011 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. James

    For all who say to "use whatever greeting you're comfortable with" and "stop the political correctness" – you're missing the point.

    Do you really feel intelligent and sensitive knowing that if you wish people you don't know "Merry Christmas", that many of them will be politely thanking you, while thinking of you as a fool because they don't celebrate it?

    Do you want someone of another religion – a clark at a store, for example – to wish you "Merry Christmas"? Would you be comfortable being forced to wish someone else, "Happy Hannukah", "Happy Kwanza", etc.?

    The ultimate example – a non-Christmas-celebrating store employee being forced to wish customers "Merry Christmas" wishes a non-Christmas-celebrating customer with that greeting, when neither of of them celebrate it. It happens! But sure, right – "Keep the Christ in Christmas" – of course.

    December 24, 2011 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. sumo_jp

    I think we should scrap the whole thing and say 'Happy Holidays' for EVERYTHING and I mean everything in America. Period.

    On July 4th I could say to people 'Happy Holidays' and during 'Thanksgiving' I would say the samething. Surely no one would be offended if I generalized everything. The truth is people would be offended and that's the point. I've got Muslim friends and Christian friends and say their own greetings, why can't you allow them that. We should respect everyone and allow them to say whatever greetings they want.

    I could easily be offended if I think about certain countries involvement of other countries but that is another post I guess.

    I hope everyone has a nice day on December 25th (Merry Christmas).

    December 24, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. wanderer

    I celebrate Christmas because it is a day off from work. My wife celebrates Christmas because it is time the shopping malls open until midnight. My son celebrates Christmas because of the Christmas gifts. My family and the families of my brothers and sisters celebrate Christmas because this day is our mother’s birthday that has nothing to do with Jesus’s birthday.

    December 24, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. It's a rediculous discussion

    I work in a company that has Hindus and Muslims and Christians all working together. As each religion's holiday came about (all three religions have holidays in the last few months of the year) each greeted everyone with the greetings from their own holiday. I myself celebrate Christmas. It has been very pleasant to get greetings from other religions, as it signifies that in those greetings each of us is thinking about the others. In my company we do it right, political correctless police be damned. Anyone with an ounce of humanity knows it's the thought that counts. If you are offended by the words Merry Christmas, then I'll say them to you again and again until you get over yourself.

    December 24, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. Dave A

    Hey Jim: HAPPY HOLIDAYS!! :)

    December 24, 2011 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. CCCDaughter

    I am not a practicing Christmas, but Merry Christmas is an American tradition! To rid Merry Christmas is as terrible as to rid Santa Claus! Merry Christmas America!

    December 24, 2011 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  12. DN

    Unfortunately, this comes down to sensitivity. Those Christians who believe everyone should say, "Merry Christmas," are demonstrating an insensitivity to those who don't observe the holiday. Perhaps a "Twilight Zone" experience of them being in the minority and another religion's holiday being the greeting might change their perspective.

    Do they really think Jesus would want everyone to say, "Merry Christmas". The religion didn't take birth until well after the Jewish man died.

    December 24, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  13. Woman In California

    It is Christmas.

    Merry Christmas EVERYONE. Stay safe and enjoy the holiday.

    December 24, 2011 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  14. Gabbo

    Obama and his liberal minions won't be happy till we are all wearing khaki uniforms and are paid survival stipends by the state – and eating soylent green, since it is sustainable.

    December 24, 2011 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  15. Gabbo

    You lousy moderators cull any "anti-CNN-speak" so you can keep your liberal base happy – Merry Christmas to you, Achmed !

    December 24, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  16. DN

    To "New Age Independent" (December 24, 2011 11:29 am at 11:29 am),
    Your message: "Merry Christmas! If you are offended by that, then it's your problem." sure sets a shining example of being Christian! Perhaps you would have been on the front line of the bloody Crusades, or administering the torture in the Spanish Inquisition. You are what's wrong with this country - and yes, I would say that directly to your face.

    December 24, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  17. Someone in Columbus

    I'm Jewish, and I don't care what you say...you're choice. I don't run around with a flashing sign that says I'm Jewish, and I know many peopel who wear a cross do so for fashion, not belief. This is a trivial discussion really, perpetuated by a media need to create a division to create ratings....

    December 24, 2011 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  18. Joshua Ludd

    Americans prefer merry christmas... except for the non-religious, jews, muslims, hindus, sihks, buddhists, some more fundamentalist branches of christianity that don't celebrate the holidy, etc... etc...
    Sadly I don't think I have ever heard a single phrase said with more hate and disgust than having heard Merry Christmas said by a Christian or two who buy into this fake "war on christmas".

    December 24, 2011 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  19. doug

    As an agnostic, I dont usually wish anybody anything, if someone wishes me a merry christmas, I just say thanks and then move the conversation on.

    December 24, 2011 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  20. Someone in Columbus

    This is a trivial discussion really, perpetuated by a media need to create a division to create ratings....

    December 24, 2011 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  21. PaulC

    My question is "who paid for this study"?
    How do you classify someone who says both?

    December 24, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  22. maine liberal

    from a "war on christmas" liberal Merry Christmas

    December 24, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  23. cyberCMDR

    The reason for the season is the Winter Solstice, which had been celebrated by many cultures long before Jesus' time. The ONLY reason Jesus' birth is celebrated at this time was because the early Church timed it to coincide with the pagan festivals to force people to choose. Christianity assimilated the Winter Solstice celebrations and made them its own.

    December 24, 2011 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. Herman

    Extremists on both sides of issue. Some insist on reference to non-specific "holiday" in order to champion themselves as ultra progressive while some apparently enjoy portraying themselves as victims or even martyrs with dramatic stories of being denied their first amendment right to even speak the word "Christmas" publicly. Seems like most of us are OK with either and try to make the other person comfortable if we are aware of their disposition.

    December 24, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  25. CedarRapids

    Amazing the number of people that seem to think being all inclusive and thoughtful of others is such a terrible thing, especially considering the whole message behind xmas of peace on earth and goodwill to all men.
    Guess some just prefer paying lip service.

    Happy holidays folks.

    December 24, 2011 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
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