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‘Merry Christmas’ v. ‘Happy Holidays’?: Most Americans Don’t Care

Merry Christmas Happy Holidays

It would appear that most Americans are conscientious objectors when it comes to the Fox News Channel created “War On Christmas”:

Last December, the Pew Research Center asked Americans whether they prefer stores and businesses to greet their customers by saying “Merry Christmas,” or “less religious terms such as ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings.’” The survey asked the question in two different ways to two different groups:

• A random half of respondents were asked to choose a preference between “Merry Christmas” and the less religious terms.
• The other half were asked a version that included those two options, then added “or doesn’t it matter to you?” at the end.

When the question is presented as a choice between “Merry Christmas” and the less religious terms, 57% pick “Merry Christmas” and 27% select the less religious terms. (In this instance, even without “it doesn’t matter” presented as an option, 15% volunteer that they don’t have a preference.)

But when “it doesn’t matter” is added as an option, it draws roughly the same amount of support as “Merry Christmas”; 42% say they prefer “Merry Christmas,” 12% prefer the less religious terms and 46% say it doesn’t matter. There has been almost no change since 2005, when we asked the same question.

Not surprisingly, opinions vary widely when you break it down by party:

[W]hen “it doesn’t matter” is included as an option, 63% of Republicans or those who lean Republican say they prefer “Merry Christmas,” while 5% choose “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” and 32% say it doesn’t matter. Among Democrats or those who lean Democratic, 28% prefer “Merry Christmas,” 17% opt for the less religious terms and 55% say it doesn’t matter.

In the 2005 poll noted above, 52% of Independents said it didn’t matter to them if someone says “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.”

Please, don’t anyone tell Bill O’Reilly, he’s liable to completely lose his mind.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. rodney dill says:

    ….and Festivus for the Rest of Us.

    I’ve usually said ‘Merry Christmas’ though at times also ‘Happy Holidays.’ When I hear ‘Happy Holidays’ I usually don’t first think there is someone snubbing the birth of Christ. I do find it annoying when people say “Happy Holidays’ and then make it clear they are doing it to be non-religious specific. I find it equally annoying when people say ‘Merry Christmas’ and then make it clear they say it that way for religious reasons.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  2. rodney dill says:

    …and I do occasionally say it this way.
    Wee Fish Ewe a Mare egrets Moose

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @rodney dill: I always say it “BAH! HUMBUG!” Seriously I don’t care what anyone calls it, as long as they don’t call me until they’re over.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  4. Todd says:

    I’ve never personally met anyone who was actually “offended” by the term Merry Christmas. On the other hand, I have known more than a few people who call themselves Christians, that will launch into a hissy fit that would make a 3 year old proud should anyone dare to wish them a Happy Holidays.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  5. rodney dill says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Merry Christmas, OzarkHillbilly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. Rafer Janders says:

    I’ll say “Merry Christmas” once it’s actually Christmas on December 25th, and for the twelve days of Christmas thereafter until January 5th.

    Up until then, it’s “Merry Advent!” to you…and you and you and you.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  7. Moosebreath says:

    “Please, don’t anyone tell Bill O’Reilly, he’s liable to completely lose his mind.”

    No, he’s likely to nod in approval. This is just another way the GOP-leaning media cynically gets its base riled up.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  8. beth says:

    I’ve seen a few Facebook postings saying things like “I don’t care if you like it or not, or if it’s politically correct, I say Merry Christmas!” As far as I’m concerned, if you make “Merry Christmas” sound like “F*ck Y*u” you’re doing it all wrong.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 42 Thumb down 0

  9. Mikey says:

    @beth:

    As far as I’m concerned, if you make “Merry Christmas” sound like “F*ck Y*u” you’re doing it all wrong.

    That is completely fantastic. Can I steal that?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  10. rudderpedals says:

    @beth: When it comes off as a f!ck you it’s totally OK to return favor with a smile and cheery hopes for a dreadful Christmas.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. JKB says:

    I say, let the market take care of it

    Now, what about all the jerks running around insisting that others participate in the mess rather than leaving those who wish to be left alone, alone.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  12. John Peabody says:

    Remember the wise words of Bill Murray in “Meatballs”. It just doesn’t matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. @rodney dill:

    I do find it annoying when people say “Happy Holidays’ and then make it clear they are doing it to be non-religious specific. I find it equally annoying when people say ‘Merry Christmas’ and then make it clear they say it that way for religious reasons.

    Indeed. I am quite annoyed that we are at a point where one might be interpreted as making a political statement based on any given attempt to simply wish people well.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  14. Tony W says:

    I could never express my position on the issue better than this

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  15. Tillman says:

    This makes me so happy.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. Surreal American says:

    Whether someone says to me “Merry Christmas”, “Happy Holidays”, or “Season’s Greetings”, I will respond in kind.

    However on December 17, I will be greeting people by saying “Io Saturnalia!”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturnalia

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  17. ernieyeball says:

    @Tony W: Will “back atchya!” do?
    ———
    I sure hope Fox News exposes the outrageous sacrilege that pervaded the Okefenokee Swamp when Pogo and Crew would sing “Deck Us All With Boston Charlie!”
    The country needs to be protected from such blasphemy!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zb_W_JP5kgc

    http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/458/what-are-the-lyrics-to-walt-kellys-classic-carol-deck-us-all-with-boston-charlie

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. JohnMcC says:

    @ernieyeball: A great big thank you to go with the Merry Christmas, my friend! Never a Holiday Season goes by that I don’t at some point remember Albert Alligator and Churchy LaFemme singing ‘Walla Walla Wash and Kalamazoo”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. G.A.Phillips says:

    In other news. Jesus seems to have been born around Sept.11, Christmas is a pagen /marketing holiday and most athiests are still dickheads.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  20. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @beth:

    I’ve seen a few Facebook postings saying things like “I don’t care if you like it or not, or if it’s politically correct, I say Merry Christmas!” As far as I’m concerned, if you make “Merry Christmas” sound like “F*ck Y*u” you’re doing it all wrong.

    Yep.

    Yesterday, while listening to FM radio, I heard a commercial for a car dealership in the Denver market use that.

    Gotta tell ya, I found it VERY offensive that they were choosing to shove a Merry Christmas down every other religion’s figurative throat.

    Hey Hindus, Jews, Bahai, Buddists Muslims, atheists and others… Here’s a big F. U. … so come and buy our cars !!!

    (Oh… and then they threw in a “Happy Holidays” as well… morons.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  21. Liberal Capitalist says:

    Oh, and to all…

    “ I don’t care if you like it or not, or if it’s politically correct, I say: Io, Saturnalia !

    … a good night.

    (… after all, Saturn is the reason for the season! Amiright? AmIright? )

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Tyrell says:

    @Rafer Janders: I am glad there are still a few around who even realize and are aware of that. If I try to keep the tree up two days after Christmas, I know I am fighting a losing battle. True preparation for Christmas is not observed by very many. But many more churches now do observe Advent. I have always liked Advent evening services: a welcome break from the hurry and scurry, a quiet time to think, meditate, candles, and soothing music. After Christmas, it is very hard to keep anyone thinking about Christmas.
    The “Happy Holidays” issue generally started in the 1990′s. I don’t remember exactly when and how it became an issue. For most people it is not an issue.
    A few weeks from now the churches will be half empty (probably more) and things return to normal until next November 1. It never fails to amaze me to see people in church at Christmas and Easter only. In most churches they are counted as active members.
    I was raised in a church in which the church calendar was observed and used not only to set the worship, hymn selections, readings, sermon topics, altar, and different activities, but to provide an education about important Christian events.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @Tyrell:

    The “Happy Holidays” issue generally started in the 1990′s…

    It’s just one more of the various issues that conservative media decided to use as an attack against a sane America.

    Who knew that Bing Crosby was so offensive to conservatives! That 1942 film “Holiday Inn” must get their panties in a knot !

    http://waronhappyholidays.com/

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. merl says:

    I tell people Merry Christmas on Dec 24th and 25th only. Otherwise, I look like a damn fool who doesn’t know what day is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  25. barbintheboonies says:

    @beth: That’s the best comment yet

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. ernieyeball says:

    @JohnMcC: I do what I can…Anyone interested in nontraditional holy music should check out Minnie Riperton when she was with Rotary Connection.
    Their Christmas Album “Peace” has 3 covers of Silent Night that will knock your sox off!

    http://www.amazon.com/Peace-Rotary-Connection/dp/B000008K9L

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  27. Gustopher says:

    I like to respond to all of them with a vaguely threatening, slightly angry “same to you, buddy, same to you.”

    I also like to dress as Santa.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  28. Tony W says:

    @Tyrell:

    The “Happy Holidays” issue generally started in the 1990′s. I don’t remember exactly when and how it became an issue.

    Hmm, that’s right around the time Bill Clinton was showing us who the fiscal conservatives really were. It feels like perhaps an opposition group needed a distraction of some sort? If they could somehow foster a victim mentality, all the better

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. al-Ameda says:

    Either “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” is preferable to “I’m sorry, your credit card purchase has been denied authorization.”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. James Vaughan says:

    Christmas shouldn’t be a political football to be kicked around (though that’s just about what it is in the US nowadays). ANYONE can have a Merry Christmas—it’s been a Federal holiday for nearly a century-and-a-half, and almost everyone gets the day off. One can have an enjoyable day off from work or school regardless of one’s religious or cultural background, so wishing anyone a “Merry Christmas” can mean enjoy the day, however you choose to celebrate it (or not). The acknowledgement that that day is the Federal holiday known as Christmas is no more potentially offensive than saying “Happy Thanksgiving”, or “Have a great Fourth”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  31. James Vaughan says:

    @beth: “Merry Christmas” isn’t hate speech. Any seasonal greeting can be made to sound aggressive or friendly. A lot of it has to do with the sincerity and tone of voice with which it is given.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0