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Holiday Season | December

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Angus Reid Institute Holiday Survey

Each year it seems that the very question of the meaning of the holidays gets asked more often. Christmas, as some people believe, is under threat from more inclusive terms for the season. A quick perusal of social media will find calls for us to say “Merry Christmas,” not “Happy Holidays.” And each year there is an inevitable question about the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (see news story here). This reflects a perceived cultural threat. The Angus Reid Institute survey shows Canadians are divided about the meaning of the holidays.

Survey findings

When asked about the holiday season, only 10% think the holidays are primarily a religious occasion. A small majority thinks that it is primarily a festive/fun occasion rather than religious. The remainder think it is both equally (34%) or said neither 3%). There is a generational divide. Older (55+ years) men and older women are more likely (54%) to say it is either primarily religious or both equally. In comparison, 66% of those 18 to 34 say it is primarily festive.

If it mostly about being fun and festive, it is hard to understand the importance of the word Christmas. Nevertheless, 82% prefer Christmas over holiday season in a forced choice situation. Age and gender are not good predictors of the preferred descriptor. Conservative voters (in the 2019 federal election) are, however, the most likely to prefer Christmas.

And, when probed, two thirds of Canadians (69%) agree or somewhat agree that Christmas is losing its real meaning, Again, older people are slightly more likely to agree.

Angus Reid Institute Holiday Survey

Final thoughts

There is a cultural angst that emerges with Christmas each year. The agreement that Christmas is losing its meaning whether true or not, is probably fuelling a populist-like backlash. Inclusive terms for the holiday are part of the fuel as are discussions of banning some songs. Clearly Canadians prefer the term Christmas even as they tend to view the holiday as primarily fun and festive rather than religious.


Fieldwork: Angus Reid Institute Survey (Online, December 2 to 4, 2019 , n = 1655). The Angus Reid Institute bears no responsibility for the analyses or interpretations of the data presented here.