More Americans Say Christmas is 'Strongly Religious'

Half of Americans who celebrate Christmas say it is "strongly religious" for them, continuing the upward trend seen since 1989, the Gallup Poll found.

This year, of those who celebrate the holiday, 51 percent of Americans observe it as a "strongly religious holiday," up from 49 percent in 2006 and 40 percent in 1989. Meanwhile, the percentage of Americans who say they celebrate Christmas – as a secular or religious holiday – has remained consistent since 1994, ranging from 93 to 96 percent, according to Gallup.

The survey also shows that people that see Christmas as "strongly religious" and those that view it as "not too religious" celebrate the holiday similarly in many ways.

Both groups exchange gifts, gather with family and friends, attend Christmas parties, put up Christmas trees, and hang up decorations in relatively similar proportion. But those that see Christmas as "strongly religious" and those that do not split when it comes to taking time to reflect on the birth of Christ (98 percent versus 31 percent, respectively), displaying decorations with religious meaning, such as a Nativity scene (86 percent versus 25 percent), attending religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (84 percent versus 17 percent), and attending a Christmas concert or play (71 percent versus 34 percent).

A new LifeWay Research study similarly found that nine in 10 Americans (91 percent) celebrate Christmas, including many non-Christians. A majority of agnostics or those claiming no preference (89 percent) celebrate Christmas, as well as those from other religions (62 percent), and even atheists (55 percent) observe the holiday in some way.

"Over the past three decades, the percentage of those who celebrate Christmas and describe it as a 'strongly religious' holiday for them has increased," the Gallup Poll report notes. "Thus, the religious aspect of the Christmas holiday may be growing in importance; however, Americans are more likely to participate in nonreligious Christmas traditions than in religious ones."

Results for the USA Today/Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 10-12, 2010, with a random sample of 1,019 adults, aged 18 and older.

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