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. Thinking12

    There is nothing wrong with celebrating Christmas in a secular way. I grew up Christian but left religion in my early 20's and I still celebrate Christmas, just not the religious part of it. The mythological origins of Christmas have nothing to do with the commercialized and secular way society as a whole recognizes the Christmas season.

    December 24, 2011 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. Merry Christmas

    To the 246 million Americans that are Christians, it's strictly "Merry Christmas", emphasis on "Christ".

    December 24, 2011 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  3. Seth Hill

    As an atheist, I always wish everyone a "Merry Christmas!" After all, Christmas isn't Christian (Santa? Elves? Reindeer? A decorated pine tree? Presents? Egg Nog?) Everyone knows it's just an old winter solstice festival; when it gets really dark and cold, we need some brightness and cheer.

    December 25, 2011 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  4. Merry Christmas

    To the 246 million Christians in the United States, it's strictly "Merry Christmas".

    December 25, 2011 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  5. saftgek

    "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" are most appropriate, inclusive ways to wish people well in the November – January time periods. With Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanza, and Hannukah, what is so wrong with a collective greeting?

    Believe it or not, "Christmas-only" people do NOT own the winter season! How about a little respect for those of a different persuasion? When one says "Seasons Greetings" or "Happy Holidays," one is including Christmas.

    My goodness – for all there is that divides us in this country, can't we greet each other with civility and respect v. being aloof, arrogant, self-serving and exclusionary? This is supposed to be a happy, blessed season. How about we keep it that way?

    December 25, 2011 12:09 am at 12:09 am |
  6. sqeptiq

    You have to have a pretty poverty stricken intellectual life to give a fat rat's rear either way.

    December 25, 2011 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  7. Robert

    There are 246 million Americans in the United States who are Christians. Merry Christmas!!!

    December 25, 2011 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  8. saftgek

    "Joshua Ludd" – would that be the North Americans, Central Americans or South Americans – or all of the above.

    The insensitive, arrogant people of the USA (yes, I live in the USA – have all my life) believe THEY are Americans. If one looks at the term collectively, they would not use the term, as it is owned by all who live in "The Americas" – - – North, Central and South Americas.

    Let's dump the nonsense, and recognize we are all citizens of the world.

    December 25, 2011 12:14 am at 12:14 am |
  9. Robert

    "Happy Holidays" is a clear demonstration of Jewish hatred toward Christ, Christmas and Christians. It is truly disgusting.

    December 25, 2011 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  10. TG

    Merry Christmas! If the day comes that I ever say that to someone and they reply that they don't know what I mean, then that is when I will simply take the time to explain it to them. Other than that, if they get offended then they have bigger issues to worry about than my Merry Christmas to them. Have a Happy New Year as well. Hope they know what that means.

    December 25, 2011 12:27 am at 12:27 am |
  11. Ron

    What a load. If I say Merry Christmas to you, simply accept that I wish you well. If you wish me a greeting for YOUR holiday tradition, or religion, I would accept it in a similar spirit. If you believe in nothing, at least do me the courtesy of considering that I've offered good wishes to you, not bad. It is ridiculous to demand that I respect your tradition, if any, while you disrepect mine. Why be antagonistic? Life is too short. Accept the spirit in which the compliment is offered, and leave it at that!

    December 25, 2011 12:39 am at 12:39 am |
  12. hbrooks17

    And the question asked, "Dear Christians, would you rather say Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?" Hilarious. That. Is. All.

    December 25, 2011 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  13. txcalgal

    I've been known to say either – to me Happy Holidays is not only all inclusive of others' beliefs but also includes wishes for a happy New Year, so it is the one I use more than the other. It's a mouthful to tell a store clerk to have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, eh???? Unless it is actually Christmas day or to someone I know personally, it is a Happy Holiday season for me!

    December 25, 2011 12:44 am at 12:44 am |
  14. hbrooks17

    By the way, Merry Christmas!

    December 25, 2011 12:45 am at 12:45 am |
  15. Todd

    Ah, yes – the annual debate between the divided camps – the conservative people who see a war on "Christmas," event though our Christmas is mostly a secular holiday- the ultra-hip, too cool for words, liberals who are so proud to mock organized religion and tripping over themselves to respect every one else's culture but their own, and the nerds who can't stop telling everyone that Christmas is really a pagan holiday – we get it already – you took a history class once, good for you.

    December 25, 2011 12:49 am at 12:49 am |
  16. MenckensGhost

    Do you know when it's okay to say 'Merry Christmas'? On Christmas day...all other times during the first three weeks of December, its appropriate to say 'Happy Holidays' – because most of us will soon be on our winter holiday. Why is this so difficult for 'christians' to comprehend?

    December 25, 2011 12:51 am at 12:51 am |
  17. blackperson3

    Merry Christmas to all (unless you are an idiot)

    December 25, 2011 01:03 am at 1:03 am |
  18. Phil

    Im an Atheist..I still say Merry Christmas.

    December 25, 2011 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  19. Phil

    Merry Christmas.

    December 25, 2011 01:06 am at 1:06 am |
  20. Boston Bob

    I do not agree with the politically correct foolishness. It is Christmas and 250 million people in the country are Christians. So Merry Christmas !!!!

    December 25, 2011 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  21. yuri Pelham

    The pathetic thing is that most Americans have given in. They're banning Santas going to public schools in Saugus Ma. By the way they are really firemen dressed as Santa. And to call it a holiday tree? Political correctness is sterilizing our society. It's Merry Christmas and good will to all... though I must admit I hold the "Happy Holiday" contingent and their enablers in contempt.

    December 25, 2011 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  22. MattS

    Let's put the lower case 'c' in christmas. 'Merry Christmas' wouldn't be offensive to me if it wasn't meant in a religious way. Your religion is not my religion. Are we all running around greeting each other with 'Happy Hanukkah', 'Oden be with you in this time of cold and no sun', or 'praise the flying spagetti monster'. No we are not. Please have a little respect for others before you start assuming they all belive what you do.

    December 25, 2011 01:19 am at 1:19 am |
  23. Alex

    This is a uniquely US problem, because only here we have a significant amount of "scary Christians" like Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, or the Westboro crazies. Thats why a) people want to distance themselves from Christmas and b) people are upset that others distance themselves. European countries are way more secular and liberal, and still there is no question that the gift-giving season in late December is Christmas. Its just no big deal.
    The US got all the religious nutcases from Europe, thats what still lingers until today.

    December 25, 2011 01:29 am at 1:29 am |
  24. Dave836

    I say merry Christmas to everyone. Even if they don't celebrate it, I really don't care. It's the thought that counts...

    Life is way too short to worry about this kind of stuff and frankley, life seemed less hectic when everyone wasn't afraid of insulting others – just speak your mind and you'll find your life way less stresfull.

    December 25, 2011 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  25. itscion

    Who cares? This should be a big deal. If you don't celebrate than don't say anything back or return with your celebration's wish. People who get miserable over this need that bug pried from their butt.

    December 25, 2011 01:33 am at 1:33 am |
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