Americans still prefer 'Merry Christmas' over 'Happy Holidays'
December 24th, 2011
10:26 AM ET
7 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. Kate in California

    Who really cares – we can say which ever we want – it is a free country. I am grateful we can have this discussion open and free – no one is going to be put to death for saying the wrong thing. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays and Peace on Earth.

    December 24, 2011 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  2. Doug

    This is one of those arguments perpetuated by the 10% crazies on both sides - the 10% on the far left who get offended by anything that isn't all inclusive, and the 10% on the right who demand that their views be imposed on everyone else. The reality is that the vast majority of people are in the middle, and are happy to get any friendly greeting, be it Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays.

    December 24, 2011 10:02 pm at 10:02 pm |
  3. Abe

    Celebrate the cause not the effect.
    Merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 10:04 pm at 10:04 pm |
  4. 100% ETHI

    This year, the Great year, becomes the combination of Judo-Christianity or Judo-Christmas celebrations. Oh Almighty!
    Can you believe this!

    Merry, Merry Christmas, Happy Happy Hanukkah and New Year!!!

    **Remember, since WWI, we changed Hours more than Thirty times**. Who knows, if the real Christmas was already passed few Weeks ago, or it not coming yet until next few Weeks. I, Mr. Calendar, said this.

    All is well that ends well.
    Welcome to the Christian Third Holly Land, America!!!

    December 24, 2011 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  5. Demotage

    Feel free to say whichever one you want. Just don't tell me which one I have to say. I am not violating your rights whether I choose to say 'Merry Christmas', 'Happy Holiday' or 'Screw You Jack!'. You are violating mine when you try to tell me what I have to say.

    December 24, 2011 10:13 pm at 10:13 pm |
  6. PraiseTheLard

    Happy Post-Solstice!

    December 24, 2011 10:14 pm at 10:14 pm |
  7. navin johnson

    From what I am reading, older Americans are more self-centered and are in the mind set of "my beliefs and customs are the only ones of merit"..while younger Americans are more universally centered and believe everyone's beliefs and customs have merit. Which is why younger people prefer "Happy Holidays". As the older people die off they will be replaced by the much more enlightened younger people.

    December 24, 2011 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
  8. Jessa

    As an agnostic Jewess, I always use the phrase Happy Holidays. If I were to wish everyone Happy Chanukkah, I'd offend a lot of people, given some Christians believing that only they celebrate during this time of year. How pretentious and self-centered these people are! The spirit of ALL the holidays celebrated at this time of year, whether religious or secular, is what truly counts when wishing one well – it's not just a "Christian" greeting.

    December 24, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  9. Beth

    I have said both Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. No one has ever gotten upset with either one. I think this whole thing is a stunt contrived to sell advertising for news organizations. The word holiday comes from holy day, so they mean the same thing.

    December 24, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |

    What? I thought today is Caturday!

    I love cats! I'm celebrating that today! Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeehawwwwwwwww!

    December 24, 2011 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  11. Jim

    It is un-Christian to respect the religious views of others. Christians are tasked by Jesus to save the souls of the sinners by bringing them to Christ. Sometimes they ring the doorbell and spam you with flyers in the mail, and on occasion throughout history, they have simply threated you with evisceration, the rack, and other forms of torture, like in the Inquisition. In Europe back in the 40s, one group of Chrsitians, the Germans (54% catholic and 40% protestant) decided to simply eradicate some people by, you know, putting them in ovens and brungin them alive. But hey, it's all in good fun though, just trying to save some souls and make the place better for Christians like us! So... Merry Christmas!

    December 24, 2011 10:31 pm at 10:31 pm |
  12. Emily

    As an atheist, I really don't care. No holiday greetings offend me just as a matter of hearing them. It does offend me that Christians pretend there's a war on religion or Christmas or Christianity. It does offend me when people say things like 'Merry CHRISTmas' as though I need help understanding the root of the word. It does offend me when Christians pretend that Christ is being taken out of Christmas. It seems to me that you think Christ is being taken out of Christmas, then that is a deeply personal problem that only you can solve for yourself. So the survey misses the point; it's not the phraseology that is at issue. It's the underlying assumption that somehow, those who don't celebrate Christmas in the Christian way are second-tier citizens. So, happy holidays, whichever you celebrate. May they be peaceful and happy and guilt-free.

    December 24, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  13. Blessed Geek

    Try not to wish me "Merry Christmas". Do not invite me to a company "holiday" dinner, which is actually a Christmas dinner blaring with songs to worship a god unfamiliar to me. Do not force me to bow down to your god. Do not invite me to worship your idol. Do not invite me to eat food offered to your idol. Jesus is not, has never been, and never will be the king of Jews.

    Try your best as you may, to walk me into your burning cauldron, or den of lions – I may cave in but you will be guilty of compelling me to bow down to your god and it would be better that a millstone be tied around your neck.

    December 24, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  14. bobcat2u

    I have a very simple way to avoid offending anyone. I just wait till they greet me in whatever way, and then I just say, The same to you. Polite, and no hurt feelings.

    December 24, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  15. DrDiomedes

    Recall that "holiday" is derived from "holy day" ... it is very difficult to find a purely secular greeting. but i prefer happy holiday versus merry christmas as it doesn't promote a single religion. regardless, the winter solstice season has been a holy season for various cults and religions since the dawn of civilization ... so really, it should a time that unites humanity, and as such, is a humanist celebration

    December 24, 2011 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  16. Chris Bourne

    Ahhh, they didn't account for my favorite holiday greeting ... Merry Blow Job! Let's get serious, who cares!?!?!?

    December 24, 2011 10:54 pm at 10:54 pm |
  17. Wayne

    Happy Channukah

    December 24, 2011 10:58 pm at 10:58 pm |
  18. john davidson

    To all who do their best to find a problem with saying Merry Christmas! – MEH!!! 🙂

    You have had your day – sanity is slowly making a comeback in the world!


    Happy Hannakuh!!, etc. if you don't celebrate the birth of our the U. S. we are 85% Christian and we wish for peace and good will to all!!


    December 24, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  19. Shannon

    I'm as liberal as you get, and I have never had anyone object when I say Merry Christmas except right wing nut jobs who watch Bill O'Reilly, and buy his ridiculous claim about a war on Christmas. If you say it to one of his viewers, they always screetch at you, "don't you know you can't say that." Happens evertime, you can always spot a FOX News viewer.

    December 24, 2011 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  20. blackperson3

    Merry Christmas

    December 24, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  21. Anonymous

    If a person who is Jewish wishes you a Happy Hanukkah, are you suppose to be offended? If a person who is Muslim wishes you a Happy Ramadan, are you suppose to take that as some sort of insult? These are people who are expressing good wishes to others. Merry Christmas! If you are bothered by that, get help.

    December 24, 2011 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  22. AnotherThought

    Since most Christians aim toward following the golden rule of "doing unto others as you would have done to you", it would follow that most Christians would not wish to be told to celebrate a holiday that they don't celebrate. So, a simple suggestion one could follow would be to ask the person you wish to bless or spread joy to which holidays that they celebrate. Then, encourage them to celebrate that which is cherished by them. I do this frequently and feel it a peaceful, loving and Christian approach.

    December 24, 2011 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  23. shrinkDave

    Who cares who cares who cares who cares who cares who cares who cares who cares who cares. Merry Christmas Happy Holidays Merry Christmas Happy Holidays who cares who cares who cares.

    December 24, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  24. christian

    Christmas is all about the birth day of Jesus Christ. It should not be compromised to embrace other non believers. So if someone doesn't believe in Jesus Christ, he has to know Christmas belongs to Christians and it can never be a holiday for non Christian. So we keep saying "MERY CHRISTMAS". As eid al fitr is exclusively Muslim’s holiday, Christmas is Christian's.

    December 24, 2011 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  25. dawn

    "Happy Holidays" is polite and includes everyone. Why wish someone a "Merry Christmas" if she doesn't celebrate that holiday? Either you wish to force your religion on other people - unpleasant - or you risk robbing the holiday of all religious significance.

    December 24, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
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