Lights adorn houses, decorations litter yards and families set up pine trees in living rooms all over the United States. The numbers are looking great for retailers, but not so much for Christians. According to Pew Research, 90 percent of Americans and 95 percent of Christians celebrate the Christmas holiday. Although most Christians celebrate, not all say it’s primarily about their religion.
The trend of religion falling out of Christmas continues according to Pew. Only 46 percent of Americans say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, down five percent from 2013. This trend can be somewhat attributed to Millennials, who are much less likely to attribute religion to Christmas than adults according to Pew. The trend continues not only for millennials, but for the majority of U.S. adults as 56 percent say that religious aspects of Christmas in general lack emphasis on the holiday.
Greetings have also been trending in recent years. How retailers greet their customers: whether “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” is more appropriate has been a topic of discussion. According to Pew, the percentage of Americans who don’t care about the greeting has increased. Joey Stout, a sophomore digital cinema major at John Brown University, isn’t one of these people. “I think it does matter,” Stout said, “Not necessarily for me, but some people care about being socially correct, and using the correct term could potentially gain or retain customers.” However, the percentage of people who prefer the phrase, “Merry Christmas” is down from 42 percent in 2013 to 32 percent.
The Christmas season also can be an issue in the political sphere. The Supreme Court handed down two rulings in the 1980s that allowed Christmas, Hanukkah and other religious holiday symbols on public properties, as long as they are not strictly promoting or endorsing a particular religion.
The trend for retailers, however, has steadily climbed since 2000. In 2018, retail sales in the U.S. were up to $719 billion during the holiday season. Whether those sales are for individual purchases or for giving, the sales remain. Aaron Garst, a sophomore communication major thinks that giving has become an obligation for most Americans. “I think giving increases almost because of an obligation,” Garst said. “Especially adults, because giving gifts, especially in this season, is the main way that you show you care about others.”
“I think the giving increases because of American ideals,” Stout said, “America has made this season one of gift giving and less about religion.”
Although for Christians, Christmas means more than new clothes, toys and video games/ Fewer Americans believe that the events of Christmas are based on fact. Fewer people in the U.S. believe in the biblical story: that Jesus was born from a virgin in a manger, that wise men brought gifts to Jesus and that an angel announced his birth to shepherds. In 2014, 65 percent of people believed these were correct. However, only 57 percent of people today believe that all three of these elements are true.