When Did Christmas Become So Commercial?

Lorraine Chow


From Loop21 and our content partner New America Media:


Is Christianity losing its grip on Christmas? For many, Christmas is more cultural than religious.


A new poll from the Pew Research Center surveyed how Americans celebrate the season and found that more than any other winter holiday, Christmas reigns supreme. According to Pew, 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas, including 80 percent of non-Christians.


So do the Fox News pundits have a point with this "war" on Christmas narrative? The big takeaway from the Pew poll is this: Only half of Americans still view Christmas as a religious holiday.


The religious meaning of Christmas is getting lost


According to Pew, a third of Americans actually see Christmas as more of a cultural holiday, while others said it was both, or gave no opinion. Even the “religiously unaffiliated” get in the spirit: among atheists or agnostics 87 percent say they still celebrate Christmas. The country is also aging out of the religious aspects. Younger adults were the least likely to see Christmas as a religious holiday, at 39 percent, compared with 66 percent of those aged 65 or older.


Still, Jesus is polling better than Santa


The poll found that a total of 66 percent of adults between 18 and 29 believe that Jesus was born of a virgin, as do 76 percent of all other adults. However, the Red Man in the Suit is losing his grip. Even though 72 percent of adults had Santa in their homes as a kid, only 31 percent of those adults will perpetuate the Santa story in their own homes.


Christmas traditions are fading


Besides aging out of St. Nick, other childhood Christmas traditions are falling. Eighty-six percent said they would attend a gathering with family or friends on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, down slightly from 91 percent who said they did this as children. About 86 percent planned to exchange gifts, a 3 percent drop from the 89 percent who said they did so as children. Other traditions such as sending holiday or Christmas cards, going caroling and attending religious services have dipped as well. 54 percent of Americans plan to attend Christmas services this year, compared with 69 percent who said they did it as children.

"Happy holidays" vs. "Merry Christmas"


Even though most of us celebrate Christmas, we're getting much more PC around this time of the year so as not to offend those celebrating Hanukkah, Kwanza, or nothing at all. As the Huffington Post writes, "The Public Religion Research Institute survey also found Americans largely prefer businesses to use the phrase 'happy holidays' or 'season's greetings' instead of 'Merry Christmas.' Most religious 'nones' said they preferred a non-religious greeting during the holidays, while two out of three evangelicals opted for 'Merry Christmas.'"


Christmas: likes and dislikes


The vast majority of Americans, at 69 percent, said spending time with family and friends was the best part of Christmas. Asked what they liked least, one-third cited commercialism, while 22 percent said the season was too expensive.


The Pew Research Center interviewed 2,001 U.S. adults between December 3 and 8, by landline and cell phone. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.



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