Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays?

My wife and I got back a couple of hours ago from last-minute Christmas shopping. We picked up a couple of more nick-knacks from Target, and we purchased some food for our Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners from Costco. On the way out the young doorman checked our receipt and thanked us, and wished us a Merry Christmas. I thought that was very nice, and I appreciate it.

My wife's in retail management and many stores wish their customers "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas." For some, the generic well-wishing is seen as a battlefront in the secular war on Christmas.

In any case,
the "daily number" at Pew Research indicates that "a 45%-plurality have no preference for how they are greeted during the holiday season." But the Pew entry is oddly structured, even loaded in fact toward the "no preference" findings. The data are drawn from a poll in early December, which shows question wording and order playing an important role in determining greeting preferences:

When asked to choose between "Merry Christmas" and non-religious terms, most Americans (60%) say they prefer that stores and businesses greet customers by saying "Merry Christmas." Only one-in-four (23%) prefers the use of terms such as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings," while 17% volunteer that they do not care which greeting is used.

But given the specific option of saying the choice of greeting really does not matter, a plurality does so. Asked a slightly different version of the question that, along with the two choices of preferred greeting, offers the alternative "or doesn't it matter to you?," 45% choose this last alternative. Only 42% say they prefer "Merry Christmas," while 12% prefer less religious terminology.

Most striking is the age difference in preferences for holiday greetings. Only among those ages 65 and over, does a majority (64%) opt for "Merry Christmas."

That preference declines across younger age groups with only 28% of those under age 30 opting for the Christmas greeting while roughly six-in-ten say the choice of greeting doesn't matter to them.

Several other groups stand out for their strong preference for the Christmas greeting. Even when explicitly offered the opportunity to say this issue doesn't matter, majorities of white evangelical Protestants (73%) and Catholics (53%) say they prefer "Merry Christmas." By contrast, a majority (64%) of seculars and nearly half (47%) of white mainline Protestants say this issue does not matter to them. Similarly, while more than six-in-ten Republicans prefer to be greeted with "Merry Christmas," nearly half (49%) of Democrats and a small majority (52%) of independents are unconcerned by stores' choice of holiday greetings.
Actually, being greeted cordially and thanked sincerely when shopping seems like a rarity in itself nowadays; and I'm not too worked up over the Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays trade-off. I do think the larger secularization of society is a disaster, however, and the findings on the narrow demographic cohorts who express a strong preference for the traditional Christmas greeting will certainly be welcomed by the atheists and Christmas-bashers working feverishing to completely banish religious expression from the public sphere.

In any case, here's wishing all of my readers, and any others who happen along here by chance, a wonderful Christmas Eve.


I'm having an earlier-than-usual family dinner and then I'll be heading out for Christmas Eve services at our church.

30 comments:

Stogie said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS Donald.

I never say "Happy Holidays." Barf.

So you shopped at Costco and Target for Christmas? Me too.

AI said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS Donald

AubreyJ......... said...

MERRY CHRISTMAS to you and yours, Donald!!!
Hope you all have a great one this year...

And as always...
Take a minute to say a prayer for our men and women overseas away from their families this Christmas. It’s got to be tough on them...
AubreyJ.........

Amy Proctor said...

A very Merry Christmas to you, Americneocon!

Norm said...

Merry Christmas Donald !!!

I hope you and your family enjoy a wonderful day !

Norm

-G- said...

Merry Christmas from Jakarta! GBU.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Stogie. I like Costco! Great food!

Donald Douglas said...

How you doing down there, Al! Cold up here! Merry Christmas.

Donald Douglas said...

I finished up with all the last minute details, Norm. We had a great day, and we're worn out a bit but had a great dinner tonight. Thanks for visiting and have a great Hannukah and Christmas.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks AubreyJ. I will say a prayer tonight before I go to bed. Have a great Christmas.

Donald Douglas said...

Merry Christmas, Amy!

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks -G-!

Have a Merry Christmas.

Denn Yee said...

I always say Merry Christmas to strangers, except to people who look obviously Jewish and then I say Happy Hannukah.

Nikki said...

Merry Christmas and here's to more fabulous blogging in '09! all my best to you and your family! :)N

The WordSmith from Nantucket said...

Merry Christmas, Donald. My preferential Season's Greeting.

Back when secularists didn't make it into such a heated issue, I had no problems interchanging it with "Happy Holidays".

ecrunner said...

I always felt that any greeting meant Merry Christmas... but I guess saying Happy Holidays! does imply more than one.... but whatever. This "holiday season" is mainly based around Christmas, so it would make sense that people would just assume to say Merry Christmas.

close2daedge said...

Hi friends in blog world,
I wish I could say my Christmas was a great one, but unfortunately for me, it will never be forgotten. :(

If you like, you can see why here
http://shanihoe.blogspot.com/

I wish all the best, and all the rest to you all :)

Donald Douglas said...

Merry Christmas, Denn Yee.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Nikki! All the best to you and yours on this day.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Wordsmith. Have a Merry Christmas.

Donald Douglas said...

ecrunner: Thanks for visiting. Have a Merry Christmas.

Donald Douglas said...

Close2edge: Try to have a nice holiday.

Sarge Charlie said...

Merry Christmas to you and yours Donald. Remember a soldier who is not home for the holidays.

Donald Douglas said...

Thanks Sarge Charlie!

BostonMaggie said...

Marry Christmas!

I am with you, to be be greeted or thanked by someone in a store who is not saying it like a robot is really all I want. I don't care which greeting they choose.

R. Bosque said...

Merry Christmas Doc!

Dana said...

Merry Christmas to you and Mrs Douglas, and to all of your readers -- even if I'm a day late!

Dana said...

Denn Yee wrote:

I always say Merry Christmas to strangers, except to people who look obviously Jewish and then I say Happy Hannukah.

Then you'd be making a real mistake up in my neck of the woods. There's a relatively new couple at St Joseph's Catholic Church -- they've been parishioners for about six months, I'd guess -- and just looking at them, the way they look and the way they dress, you'd guess Orthodox Jewish, but they're clearly not. :)

Denn Yee said...

I see your point, Dana. But I have a lot of Jewish customers, & it feels presumptuous or insensitive to wish them a Merry Christmas. I guess maybe Happy Holidays is the safest & the most civil choice when you aren't sure what religion somebody is.

KMacGinn said...

The day after Christmas I went to the Red Cross to donate platelets. I smiled when I noticed the technician wore a button that read: "It's OK to say Merry Christmas." I was also surprised that she was allowed to wear it, since the Red Cross is always supposed to remain "neutral." But, my particular branch is manned by a bunch of volunteers who are people of faith ... thank God.