Americans Say Religious Aspects of Christmas Are Declining in Public Life

Dec 13, 2017

By Pew Research Center

As long-simmering debates continue over how American society should commemorate the Christmas holiday, a new Pew Research Center survey finds that most U.S. adults believe the religious aspects of Christmas are emphasized less now than in the past – even as relatively few Americans are bothered by this trend. In addition, a declining majority says religious displays such as nativity scenes should be allowed on government property. And compared with five years ago, a growing share of Americans say it does not matter to them how they are greeted in stores and businesses during the holiday season – whether with “merry Christmas” or a less-religious greeting like “happy holidays.”

Not only are some of the more religious aspects of Christmas less prominent in the public sphere, but there are signs that they are on the wane in Americans’ private lives and personal beliefs as well. For instance, there has been a noticeable decline in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they believe that biblical elements of the Christmas story – that Jesus was born to a virgin, for example – reflect historical events that actually occurred. And although most Americans still say they mark the occasion as a religious holiday, there has been a slight drop in recent years in the share who say they do this.

Currently, 55% of U.S. adults say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, including 46% who see it as more of a religious holiday than a cultural holiday and 9% who celebrate Christmas as both a religious and a cultural occasion. In 2013, 59% of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51% who saw it as more religious than cultural and 7% who marked the day as both a religious and a cultural holiday.

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3 comments on “Americans Say Religious Aspects of Christmas Are Declining in Public Life

  • @OP – For instance, there has been a noticeable decline in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they believe that biblical elements of the Christmas story – that Jesus was born to a virgin, for example – reflect historical events that actually occurred.

    Anyone who believes the “biblical elements of the Christmas story” or that there is some evidence of a date when “Jesus was born”, knows nothing of the history!

    There is practically no contemporary evidence of such a person existing, let alone historical details of a birth on a particular day!

    https://www.whychristmas.com/customs/25th.shtml

    No one knows the real birthday of Jesus! No date is given in the Bible, so why do we celebrate it on the 25th December? The early Christians certainly had many arguments as to when it should be celebrated! Also, the birth of Jesus probably didn’t happen in the year 1 but slightly earlier, somewhere between 2 BCE/BC and 7 BCE/BC, possibly in 4 BCE/BC (there isn’t a 0 – the years go from 1 BC/BCE to 1!).

    The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336, during the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine (he was the first Christian Roman Emperor). A few years later, Pope Julius I officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on the 25th December.

    A date made up over 300 years after the supposed event, . . . . and with tales of shepherds on hills, the December climate is a none-option!

    It was quite clearly a Christianised take-over of the Roman Saturnalia festivities!



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  • @OP – In 2013, 59% of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51% who saw it as more religious than cultural and 7% who marked the day as both a religious and a cultural holiday.

    Calling on imagined “tradition”, is illustrating a VERY superficial understanding of history! – But that is a typical feature of “faith-belief”!

    http://www.history.com/topics/christmas/history-of-christmas

    In the early 17th century, a wave of religious reform changed the way Christmas was celebrated in Europe. When Oliver Cromwell and his Puritan forces took over England in 1645, they vowed to rid England of decadence and, as part of their effort, cancelled Christmas.
    By popular demand, Charles II was restored to the throne and, with him, came the return of the popular holiday.

    The pilgrims, English separatists that came to America in 1620, were even more orthodox in their Puritan beliefs than Cromwell.
    As a result, Christmas was not a holiday in early America. From 1659 to 1681, the celebration of Christmas was actually outlawed in Boston.
    Anyone exhibiting the Christmas spirit was fined five shillings. By contrast, in the Jamestown settlement, Captain John Smith reported that Christmas was enjoyed by all and passed without incident.

    After the American Revolution, English customs fell out of favor, including Christmas. In fact, Christmas wasn’t declared a federal holiday until June 26, 1870.

    It wasn’t until the 19th century that Americans began to embrace Christmas. Americans re-invented Christmas, and changed it from a raucous carnival holiday into a family-centered day of peace and nostalgia. But what about the 1800s peaked American interest in the holiday?

    The early 19th century was a period of class conflict and turmoil. During this time, unemployment was high and gang rioting by the disenchanted classes often occurred during the Christmas season. In 1828, the New York city council instituted the city’s first police force in response to a Christmas riot. This catalyzed certain members of the upper classes to begin to change the way Christmas was celebrated in America.

    In 1819, best-selling author Washington Irving wrote The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, gent., a series of stories about the celebration of Christmas in an English manor house. The sketches feature a squire who invited the peasants into his home for the holiday. In contrast to the problems faced in American society, the two groups mingled effortlessly. In Irving’s mind, Christmas should be a peaceful, warm-hearted holiday bringing groups together across lines of wealth or social status. Irving’s fictitious celebrants enjoyed “ancient customs,” including the crowning of a Lord of Misrule. Irving’s book, however, was not based on any holiday celebration he had attended – in fact, many historians say that Irving’s account actually “invented” tradition by implying that it described the true customs of the season.

    Of course in most of the modern world Xmas/Yule/midwinter, is celebrated as a COMMERCIAL EVENT!



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  • @OP – Not only are some of the more religious aspects of Christmas less prominent in the public sphere,
    but there are signs that they are on the wane in Americans’ private lives and personal beliefs as well.
    For instance, there has been a noticeable decline in the percentage of U.S. adults who say they believe that biblical elements of the Christmas story.

    Of course there are significant aspects of religion, – such as the covering up of abuses, and the shielding of those responsible from the law, which are better expunged from society! – Especially when they are perpetrated by religious leaders posing as founts of expert knowledge giving directions to others on “moral conduct”!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-42421423

    Cardinal Bernard Law: Disgraced US cardinal dies in Rome

    Cardinal Bernard Law, who was forced to resign as archbishop of Boston 15 years ago over a Church sex abuse scandal, has died aged 86 in Rome.

    Cardinal Law stepped down in 2002 after journalists reported he had moved paedophile priests between parishes rather than addressing victims’ claims.

    The film Spotlight was later made about the allegations against dozens of priests in his Boston diocese.

    After leaving Boston, Cardinal Law took a post at the Vatican.

    He worked there until 2011.

    The child sex abuse allegations, which covered events over a period of decades, led to hundreds of lawsuits and threatened the Boston diocese with bankruptcy.

    As a result, it agreed to sell land and buildings for more than $100m (£63m) to fund legal settlements for more than 500 victims.

    Although Cardinal Bernard Law played a major role in inter-religious dialogue, serving as chair of the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interracial Affairs and on the Vatican’s Commission on Religious Relations with Jews, it was his action in covering up child sexual abuse that stained his entire career.

    Revelations in the Boston Globe newspaper led to the uncovering of widespread child abuse by Catholic clergy within his diocese. The newspaper was awarded the Pulitzer Prize and Cardinal Law was forced to resign as Archbishop of Boston in 2002.

    Cardinal Law never faced criminal charges for his role in allowing priests accused of abusing children to remain in the church and his appointment as archpriest of the Papal Liberian Basilica of St Mary Major, effectively a second career, was perceived as adding insult to the injuries inflicted on children.



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