We should maintain that if an interpretation of any word in any religion leads to disharmony and does not positively further the welfare of the many, then such an interpretation is to be regarded as wrong; that is, against the will of God, or as the working of Satan or Mara.

Buddhadasa Bikkhu, a Thai Buddhist Monk

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

All About Christmas in America

The Pew Research Center has just released the results of a survey on the ways Christmas is celebrated in the United States.  It is entitled, "Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now."  The survey covered a wide variety of topics related to Christmas and found that fully 92% of respondents reported that they celebrate Christmas and that large percentages of them still celebrate it in the ways they did as children. Younger people, however, are less inclined to celebrate it as a religious holiday and just 11% of all of those who took part in the survey see it as a time for religious reflection and worship in church.  On the whole, only 51% of them celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday while 32% consider it instead as a cultural holiday.  It is particularly interesting, in light of these figures, that some 73% of those surveyed agreed that Mary was a virgin at the time of her son's birth with even 66% of younger people ages 18-29 holding that belief.  The data makes it clear that Christmas is esp. a family holiday and the great majority of the respondents exchange gifts at Christmastime.  Nearly 8 in 10 said that they put up a Christmas tree, which is still lower than the 92% who said they did so as children.

If the Pew poll's figures accurately reflect what Americans think about Christmas and what they do at Christmastime, it is clear that the general social trend is away from Christmas as a religious holiday and toward its being a cultural event.  Evidently, however, there is also a trend away from believing in Santa Claus and pretending that he will visit on Christmas Eve.  In sum, there is little in the Pew findings that are startling, which suggests that they very probably accurately reflect what we think about Christmas.