Is there actually a War on Christmas? Most Americans seem not to care.

President Donald Trump waves to supporters during a rally in Pensacola, Fla., Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)President Donald Trump waves to supporters during a rally in Pensacola, Fla., Friday, Dec. 8, 2017. (AP Photo/Jonathan Bachman)

Almost all Americans will celebrate Christmas in some capacity this year, but why they are celebrating increasingly has less to do with the birth of Jesus as fewer Americans believe in the biblical Christmas story and a growing number are opting not to attend church services.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center, about half of all Americans (51 percent) plan to celebrate Christmas in church, down three percentage points from 2013. And that trend appears likely to continue in coming years: Just four in 10 millennials plan to attend church this Christmas, compared to six in 10 baby boomers. And when it comes to whether Christmas is “religious” or “cultural,” just 32 percent of millennials said it is more religious, 20 points behind boomers.

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Fewer Americans believe in the biblical Christmas story and a growing number are opting not to attend church services.

And those fights for parking at Midnight Mass could become less fraught this year, with just 68 percent of U.S. Catholics planning to attend church this Christmas, down 8 percentage points in just four years.

The Pew report also asked Americans about their thoughts on four elements of the traditional Christmas story: that Jesus was born to a virgin, that he was laid in a manger, that an angel announced his birth to a group of shepherds and that three wise men followed a star to pay homage to the newborn.

Belief in these elements is dropping among all Americans, including among self-described Christians.

Nearly six in 10 Americans believe all four aspects of the traditional Christmas narrative, down from 65 percent in 2014. Among Catholics, 71 percent believe all four, down five points from 2014. (The most widely believed aspect is that Jesus was laid in a manger, with 75 percent of Americans saying they believe this, while just 66 percent of Americans believe Jesus was born to a virgin. Belief in each of these aspects dropped more than 5 percentage points since 2014.)

Then there is the so-called War on Christmas, a media campaign started by the Catholic League and championed by former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly, who each December highlighted the grievances some Christians felt during the holiday season. Mr. O’Reilly departed Fox in April following revelations of sexual harassment, long before his annual War on Christmas monologues would begin.

But the theme was picked up by President Donald Trump, who as a candidate pledged that retailers would say “Merry Christmas” should he be elected. In an October speech, Mr. Trump declared victory, telling an audience of evangelical Christians, “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.”

Turns out, most Americans do not seem to care.

According to Pew, 52 percent of Americans have no preference about how they are greeted in stores during the holiday season. In 2005, 43 percent of Americans said they prefered to hear “Merry Christmas,” but today that number is just 32 percent.

But, like seemingly everything else in the United States today, one’s holiday greeting preference appears tied to party loyalty. More than half of Republicans (54 percent) say they prefer to hear “Merry Christmas” in stores, while 61 percent of Democrats say it does not matter to them.

And when it comes to expressions of the Christmas story on public land, most Americans agree that items such as Nativity scenes are O.K., especially if paired with other holiday symbols, including Hanukkah displays.

The results were released on Dec. 12 by Pew and are based on telephone interviews conducted from Nov. 29 to Dec. 4 with 1,503 adults.

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Tim Donovan
12 months ago

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday, and I both enjoy giving and receiving gifts. I try my best to give personal gifts, some of which come from SERRV, which is a fair trade agency associated with Catholic Relief Services that ensures that the foreign .artisans who make handcrafted items are paid a fair wage. As I live in a nursing home, I can't attend Mass every Sunday, but I do watch Mass on television each Sunday and on holydays, and go to a Communion Service each Sunday with the three readings proclaimed at Mass (including the Gospel) as well as the other prayers and the celebration of the Eucharist. However, I only receive Holy Communion if I'm free from mortal sin. (For some time now, my compassionate pastor has visited me and I've gone to th e Sacrament of Reconciliation e ach month for forgiveness and consolation. Finally, each month I do contribute modest sums to various secular and Catholic charities. Although Christmas is a joyous holiday, it's disappointing that an increasing number of people especially young people see the day in secular rather than religious terms. Although in past years I've had my doubts about Church teaching, I for some time have believed the teachings of Jesus as enunciated by the Church. Frankly, it hardly seems appropriate to attend Mass if one doesn't believe Church teaching, unless one is doing his or her best to renew his or her beliefs.

J Cosgrove
12 months ago

Thank you for the recommendation of SERRV. Just bought things on their site for four people for Christmas. Between them and Homeboy I have done half my Christmas shopping.

Now to find things for those hard to shop for people.

Vince Killoran
12 months ago

There is no war on Christmas. It's all posturing, cheap cultural politics.

(I had to go to the mall to return some clothing item I purchases last month--I hate going--and a large SUV with the bumpersticker "Keep Christ in Christmas" was parked next to me. A woman with 7-8 shopping bags climbed into the vehicle as I was exiting mine!)

Carol Cox
12 months ago

Once I graduated from Catholic High School and entered the work force, I was never told not to wish folks a "Merry Christmas" and not a soul ever said, "Don't say that to me!" Instead, folks would respond, "And, Happy Holidays to you!" Just greeting someone with kindness. a smile and a personal greeting seems to touch people in a positive way. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays to one and all!

Ellen B
11 months 3 weeks ago

When I was 20 and working in retail I was told by a customer not to wish her a Merry Christmas as she was Jewish. As it was never my intent to insult, I switched right then to Happy Holidays as it encompasses all the celebrations taking place including New Years & the Epiphany. As I now have many co-workers of various faiths, I'm glad I did. I save Merry Christmas for Christmas Day & my greeting cards.

Ellen B
11 months 3 weeks ago

When I was 20 and working in retail I was told by a customer not to wish her a Merry Christmas as she was Jewish. As it was never my intent to insult, I switched right then to Happy Holidays as it encompasses all the celebrations taking place including New Years & the Epiphany. As I now have many co-workers of various faiths, I'm glad I did. I save Merry Christmas for Christmas Day & my greeting cards.

Ellen B
11 months 3 weeks ago

When I was 20 and working in retail I was told by a customer not to wish her a Merry Christmas as she was Jewish. As it was never my intent to insult, I switched right then to Happy Holidays as it encompasses all the celebrations taking place including New Years & the Epiphany. As I now have many co-workers of various faiths, I'm glad I did. I save Merry Christmas for Christmas Day & my greeting cards.

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