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

    Split the difference. HAPPY CHRISTMAS to all, and to all a good night.

    December 25, 2011 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  2. Lynn

    It's OK to say "Merry Cristmas" to me and I'll do the same to you.

    December 25, 2011 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  3. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    I do not care whether the waitress/cashier/whatever says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, as long as they give me the correct change.

    December 25, 2011 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Wayne

    If you're celebrating Christmas it's Merry Christmas, if you're celebrating Hanaka, it's Happy Hanaka, same for all the rest of the Winter Solstice celebrations,

    BTW I agree that Christ has been trumped by Crass Comercialization and all our Traditional Observations come from the Pagan celebrations that the Christian chruch wants to take over.

    December 25, 2011 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  5. MC-Mahaney

    I am an atheist who is not prosecuting a "war on Christmas;" but, rather, one who respects the beliefs of others *when I know what they are.* During the winter holiday season, if I am greeting a person whom I know is a Christian, I say "Merry Christmas;" to someone I know is Jewish I say "Happy Hanukkah;" to someone whose beliefs I do not know, I say "Happy Holidays (covers New Year's Day, too, you know);" and to my daughter, wife, mother-in-law, and niece, whose birthdays occur during the holiday season, I say "Happy Birthday" on the appropriate day. C'mon folks, please calm down and try to enjoy *your* holiday(s).

    December 25, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. Mark

    Happy Winter Solstice from a Atheist Democrat from the left coast!

    December 25, 2011 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  7. Blame Bush

    This topic is just another example of deliberate efforts by certain factions of the religious right to create a controversy where none exists. They do this to keep people angry and fearful; it's the old political tactic of divide and conquer. It is well known that fearful people are more apt to send in money to "make it right" or to "fight the good fight." Just follow the money trail and you'll see what a scam they are pulling on millions of gullible people. AKA the "crisis du jour" syndrome.

    Greet people however you wish; don't be swayed by phony christians shouting about a "war on Christmas."

    December 25, 2011 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  8. Bob

    CNN your lead in of "US split over holiday greeting" is stupid. Your article says it all, we are NOT split about it.


    December 25, 2011 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  9. CBR

    The message is a good one. However, most of the customs followed today are taken from many different groups. This mad rush to buy the biggest and most gifts is not mentioned in that message.

    This is all good for retailers but it does not reflect the true meaning of Christmas. Happy holidays is a better fit for those who view gift-giving as the most important part of Christmas.

    December 25, 2011 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  10. Donna

    I am a proud Christain. I will admit that it infuriates me when people say "happy Holidays." That is crap. HOWEVER, if someone wished me Happy Hanukah, I would smile, thank them and wish them a Merry Christmas – b/c the idea behind both are the same. Happy holidays is simply offensive to me and is a cop out.

    December 25, 2011 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  11. Joe

    Holidays is short for Holy Days, so not much of an advance in secular linguistics.

    December 25, 2011 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  12. geri

    Without Christmas there would NO happy holidays, NO businesses making profits from Christmas shopping- toys, electronics, food, decorations, etc.,- NO oil companies profiting from gas purchases or airlines from travelers visiting relatives & friends, NO extra time off work or school, No extra charitable donations to help those in need, including donations to Church , newspapers and other organizations. This is why I say & will continue to say MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL! And Thank You, Baby Jesus!

    December 25, 2011 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
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