A recent Pew poll found 9 in 10 U.S. adults say they celebrate Christmas.
Did President Donald Trump live up to his promise to end the “war on Christmas”? Depends on who you ask.
While some would quibble with the very idea that a war on the holiday exists, recent polling does suggest that the Christian nature of Christmas is less culturally prevalent than in the past.
A Pew Research Center survey, published last week, found that most US adults believe the religious aspects of the holiday are emphasized less now than they used to be. But overall, just 31% of adults said “they are bothered at least ‘some’ by the declining emphasis on religion in the way the U.S. commemorates Christmas.”
Meanwhile, the “remaining two-thirds of the U.S. public either is not bothered by a perceived decline in religion in Christmas or does not believe that the emphasis on the religious elements of Christmas is waning,” according to the Pew poll.
Throughout his presidential campaign – and during his first year in office – Trump emphasized he would “make Christmas great again” by ending the “war on Christmas,” a concept that is the revival of a quintessential conservative culture war.
“If I become president, we’re going to be saying Merry Christmas at every store,” he promised supporters in 2015, among the many times he made such a yuletide pledge.
Fast-forward to October 2017 – two months ahead of the annual holiday – and Trump repeated such rhetoric at the Values Voter Summit. “Guess what?” the President told those gathered. “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
His Christmas rhetoric – and interest in making speeches in front of Christmas trees – has inspired everything from “Saturday Night Live” sketches to merchandise (there is an official “Make Christmas Merry” hat sold on the Trump campaign website, and dozens of Trump-inspired Christmas-themed sweaters on websites such as Etsy and Amazon).
The Pew survey suggests that while most Americans still celebrate Christmas, the way they think about and commemorate the holiday appears to be moving in a more secular direction.
About 55% of US 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.” That’s slightly down 4 percentage points from 2013, when 59% of Americans said they celebrated Christmas as a religious holiday, including 51% who saw it as more religious than cultural.
A vast majority of Americans — including 56% of Republicans — say the “Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays” debate is “made up” and not a “real issue,” according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday.
On a recent winter day at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC, some visitors praised the President for his efforts to restore Christmas to its more religious origins.
“I believe he’s been more proactive,” said Kevin Ferris, a Bible college student from Maryland, said of Trump’s Christmas efforts. “Absolutely.”
Others were more critical of Trump.
“You have Christmas commercialism that starts even before Halloween. That might be the point Trump is trying to make with ‘make Christmas great again,’ ” Barbara Jackson, of Clinton, Maryland, told CNN. “But then you have to consider where it’s coming from. I don’t think he’s the person that can make anything great again. There’s just so many things that he is doing that are just wrong.”
Some were more indifferent about the politics around the holiday.
“I think Christmas has become more secular over the years as the population has become secular,” said Rachael Powell, who was visiting Washington from Ohio. “Trump can tend to be a little overdramatic sometimes, I think that’s part of his persona.”
The Pew poll found 9 in 10 U.S. adults say they celebrate Christmas, which is nearly identical to the share who said they did in 2013.
“I celebrate Christmas the same, whoever is the president,” Powell added. “I feel like most people probably do, too, because it’s tradition.”
CNN’s Tom Kludt and Ryan Struyk contributed to this report.