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

    "Sick of republican phonies" l don't know what it is about you but I just have the desire to kick you in the balls and stomp on your neck. No offense and Merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  2. Monzur

    I am not a christian, but do not see the problem with wishing Merry Christmas to my colleagues and friends. After all majority of Americans celebrate it and I would like to be a part of their happiness.

    Merry Christmas everyone!!

    December 24, 2011 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Aaron

    Merry Christmas to all Christians!!.

    December 24, 2011 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  4. Bob

    MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW TO YEAR TO ALL..

    December 24, 2011 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  5. Jimh77

    Ya know what? Life is short, Merry Christmas to All!! If anyone is offended by that, it is Your problem. Find a therapist before it's too late.

    December 24, 2011 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  6. benji

    Merry CHRISTmas.

    December 24, 2011 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    Merry Christmas is what I say unless I know they do not celebrate, America, like it or not is primarily christian and so I mean only the best in saying so.

    December 24, 2011 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  8. Robert Burns

    Ok so when people say Happy Holidays what holiday are they referring to? Christmas right? So whats the point? IF it wasn't for Christ there wouldn't be Christmas. If you don't celebrate it then who cares and why do you care what we call it. You don't celebrate my birthday but that doesn't mean its still not my birthday right? Get over it. It's Christmas.

    December 24, 2011 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  9. Johnny

    I think everyone forgot the most viable answer: "Who gives a crap?" I'm not religious and I don't see the difference in either one. At work, we wish customers a "Happy Holidays" because it basically wraps Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year all in to one. On Christmas day, I say "Merry Christmas." Who cares? It's like someone saying "God bless you." I don't believe in God, but unless it's being said sarcastically or self-righteously it's just someone intending to say something nice, so why worry about it? Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Solstice, whatever. Stop worrying about petty nonsense and just have a good time with some family or friends.

    December 24, 2011 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. ss

    As a born Hindu and now agnostic, I don't care or get offended by how anyone greets anyone. As long as people keep their religion to themselves and not try to impose religion based morality or influence government policies that affect me directly, I don't really care if the president or anyone wants to greet me "Merry Christmas".

    December 24, 2011 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  11. Bayousara

    Holidays means Holy Days, what's wrong with that? I say whatever I wish, if people want to tell me Merry anything, I will accept it, just don't expect to see me in any hypocritical American church. I will be celebrating with nature (some say God created all, so nature is one of his puppies).

    December 24, 2011 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  12. JB

    We are a secular nation with many religions so "Happy Holiday" is very appropriate. After all the definition of holiday is: Holy Day. As it today, with a majority of people, Christmas only means mass consumerism and overindulgence and it has nothing to do with religion.

    December 24, 2011 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  13. jess kuiper

    any christian who gets upset that someone doesnt wish them a merry xmas is a hypocrite. Not everyone in this country celebrates xmas...so GROW UP you arent the only people on the planet. Only a child would argue about something as dumb as this. I didnt celebrate xmas as a child and was always made to feel uncomfortable around the holiday times because I believed something different. People need to act like real christians and show love to everyone no matter what they celebrate and not force their beliefs and traditions on people....

    December 24, 2011 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. New Age Independent

    To DN: Your Message "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."

    You have some serious issues if someone who sends you a greeting such as Merry Christmas and twists it into the Inquisition. Only a complete moron would make such a leap. And Yes, I'd gladly say that to your face as well.

    December 24, 2011 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  15. VRage13

    PC is destroying America. I say MERRY CHRISTMAS. Not becuase I believe this is the date of Christ's birth I am following the traditions of Christians all over the world. No one can prove what date HE was born on and as a Christian, His death is more important than His birth. America was founded by people seeking to freely and open practice thier religion without fear from anyone. That freedom is so important that it is in our Constitution (BTW the ideal our country is founded on is "freedon of religion" NOT "freedom from religion") So, I will say MERRY CHRISTMAS. I don't care what your religios beliefs are or if you have any religious beliefs at all, you are free to express your version of MERRY CHRISTMAS however you want. Just, do not for a second try to deny me that same right, otherwise you might recieve a chunk of coal in your stocking as well as a very public very load history lesson.

    December 24, 2011 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  16. D

    More importantly, WHO CARES?!

    December 24, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  17. Tiger 73

    It is simple, I wish my Christian friends Merry Christmas and my Jewish friends Happy Hanukkah. I use Happy Holiday cards for the mail, but I write the words "Merry Christmas" on the card. In any case, I wish ALL Christians a Merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  18. jane

    Peace and Good Will To All!

    December 24, 2011 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  19. anon.

    “In the old days, it was not called the Holiday Season; the Christians called it ‘Christmas’ and went to church; the Jews called it ‘Hanukka‘ and went to synagogue; the atheists went to parties and drank. People passing each other on the street would say ‘Merry Christmas!’ or ‘Happy Hanukka!’ or (to the atheists) ‘Look out for the wall!” - Dave Barry.

    December 24, 2011 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  20. SLP

    Oh, here we go! First off, let me say that I am a christian. The birth of my Savior is why I mainly celebrate Christmas, however, I enjoy the many secular aspects of the holiday. I love presents, good food, my christmas tree and decorations, spending time with family, and being Santa for my kids. Don't see a thing in the world wrong with it. Christians do like to have fun believe it or not. As for this "keep Christ in Christmas" debate that comes up every year, well, personally, I am sick of it. "Happy Holidays", "Merry Christmas", say whatever you want. Personally, I don't think God cares. I have always felt that it is my actions He cares about. He cares about how I treat my fellow human beings whether they share my faith or not. So, here is an idea. How about we let this argument lie and just care about one another and help each other out. Feed someone who is hungry. Pay for them to have heat this winter season. To my fellow christians, if you want people of other beliefs to respect yours, you have got to stop the arguing and foot stomping and be the people you profess to be. Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays! Whichever you prefer! How about this.... Be blessed!

    December 24, 2011 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  21. New Age Independent

    To DN: Your Message "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."

    You have some serious issues if someone who sends you a greeting such as Merry Christmas and you twist it into the Inquisition. Only a complete moron would make such a leap. And Yes, I'd gladly say that to your face as well. Oh, and have a Merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  22. GOP Hate America

    its HAPPY HOLIDAYS, get over it people. that's what the Christians told the Pagans when they stole the holiday anyway.

    December 24, 2011 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  23. FU

    The reason why less people in the northeast say "Merry Christmas" is that most of the Jews live in the northeast and they get SUPER TOUCHY and offended by the phrase "merry Christmas." We Americans liberated Europe from the Nazis. We welcomed Jewish refugees with open arms when no other nation would have them. We helped establish Israel as a state, and have defended it ever since

    ...but I guess that's not enough. The pushy, rude, obnoxious, greedy, selfish Jews who live here won't be happy until Christmas is completely secularized. Fuck that! If you find merry Christmas offensive, move to Israel!

    December 24, 2011 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  24. CK

    Do you say "Happy Holidays" for Diwali, Ed, or any other religious holidays? No! You wish "Happy Diwali, Ed Mubarak, etc.

    Christmas is a Christian religious celebration and nothing else, and so should be "Merry Christmas"

    December 24, 2011 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  25. ThisIsRidiculous

    If arguing and wailing and gnashing of teeth over whether to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays" is our biggest worry and most serious topic of discussion, then we as Americans are (a) as stupid as a bag of coal and (b) too stupid to know any better. Millions of people out of work. Economy struggling. The stupid people that WE elected playing petty politics and impacting the economy and the jobs market even more. And we're arguing about whether or not to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays"? Excuse me? Hello? Reminds me of the old joke that aliens from Planet We'reAsStupidAsYouAre landed on Earth looking for intelligent life and couldn't find any............WAKE UP, PEOPLE!! Try to pool your collective IQ and see if we can get it out of the single digits.

    December 24, 2011 05:59 pm at 5:59 pm |
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