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Do You Say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays?”

25 December 2012

Merry Christmas! Or, is it Happy Holidays?

It used to be that we always used to say “Merry Christmas” around holiday time. It would start early December and typically be over on Boxing Day. But somewhere along the way, Canada became a hugely multicultural nation and things had to change. With so many different cultures, different religions, and different holidays, it suddenly became politically incorrect to say “Merry Christmas,” because not everyone celebrated it. Now we say “Happy Holidays,” or less commonly heard, “Season’s Greetings!” But is this really what we want? According to a new survey, it’s not.






According to a survey which was done this year by Ipsos Reid for Postmedia News and Global Television, 72 per cent of Canadians – no matter their culture, ethnic background or religion – prefer to say “Merry Christmas.” And that’s not just this year. The survey has been done every year and over the past three years, there has been no more than a 1 per cent difference either way.

Sean Simpson of Ipsos Reid said that the reason for wanting to say “Merry Christmas” is simple – people want to stay true to the holidays.

“I think a lot of newcomers to Canada are saying, ‘This is what you do here. It might not be my thing, but call it Christmas because that’s what most people here are celebrating.”

But different generations don’t feel the same way. And not surprisingly, those who have grown up with “Happy Holidays” being a fairly common phrase are more likely to prefer it.

But Mr. Simpson says that it has more to do with just the fact that younger people are more accustomed to hearing “Happy Holidays.”

“We know younger people are less likely to be going to church, less likely to identify with the Christian faith and less likely to practice it. As a result, they might have less attachment to the term Christmas,” he says.

But Simpson may not actually be correct on that one. The survey also showed that three per cent more of people identify with being a Christian this year than last year.

Still, only three out of ten people are planning on attending a Christmas church service.

Simpson does acknowledge that the trend is shifting back to Christianity, even if it can’t be seen so much in young people.

“Twenty-three per cent of Canadians – up four points from 2010 and 2011 – believe Christmas is a time to reflect on the birth of Jesus Christ,” he says. “So I think we might be seeing a bit of a realignment away from the commercial aspect of Christmas and back to the religious aspect of it – even if we aren’t necessarily seeing huge throngs of people returning to church.”

The survey also asked Canadians whether or not they’re going to be putting up a Christmas tree – and the majority of us do have one up!

This is pretty typical of Canadians, as three-quarters of us put up trees in 2010, too. But it is up three per cent from last year, showing that Canadians are a little more in the Christmas spirit this year!

But just because we have a tree up doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going all out with our traditions. More than half of us aren’t going to be hanging stockings! The survey doesn’t specify whether those who aren’t hanging them are still using them (and perhaps just displaying them nicely under the tree,) or whether they’re foregoing them altogether. But only 48 per cent said that they were hanging stockings.

But while we may want to revert back to some traditional ways, there are parts of our tradition that we wouldn’t mind straying from. One of those is having turkey as your Christmas Dinner.

“There seems to be a collective understanding that unless you can cook turkey really well, it’s not all that good. That’s why we serve it with cranberry sauce and gravy, to moisten it up,” Simpson says jovially. “I would just as well have ham.”

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