American Culture: “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays ?

Ever since moving to the U.S., my observation has been that in American culture Christmas doesn’t carry the same importance as a family holiday as it does in Germany, where it is the single biggest family holiday of the year. In the U.S. I think that role is reserved for Thanksgiving, arguably the most American of all holidays (also free of any religious aspects). American Christmas is huge (and huge busines), but since it shares the family value with Thanksgiving its relevance as a Christian holiday is even more pronounced than it is in Germany. Factor in the fact that Germany is less religiously diverse than the U.S. and it may explain why there is this “Merry Christmas”/”Happy Holiday” divide in America. For Germans terms like “Frohe Weihnachten” and “Schöne Feiertage” are synonymous and not indicators of a school of thought.

Anne Egros, Intercultural Executive Coach

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A recent Pew survey, shows that while nine in 10 Americans take part in the holiday that theologically commemorates the birth of Jesus, only about half actually see it as a religious celebration.

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Pew found that religious and non-religious Americans largely celebrate the holiday the same. Though those who believe in Christmas as a religious holiday and those believe in the virgin birth are much more likely to go to church services for Christmas, both cultural and religious observers were just as likely to gather with family, exchange gifts and take part in the tradition of Santa Claus visiting their homes at night.

In addition, nearly 50 % of Americans say stores and businesses should greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths, according to a poll released in December 2013.

How about in Your Culture,

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One thought on “American Culture: “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays ?

  1. Many more Americans attend church than Germans and most Americans identify as Christian. I remember my German friends telling me that Americans are too religious. I think that Germans value tradition much more and are reminded of their culture and history every day. This is what I miss most about living in Germany.
    I celebrate Christmas as a religious holyday even though I don’t believe in immaculate conception. Jesus was a great man and leader for everyone. My Jewish friends put up Christmas trees too.

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