December 18, 2015

Many Millennials see Christmas as more cultural than religious holiday

Is Christmas more a religious or cultural holiday?Millennials are less religious than older Americans and less likely to identify with a religious group, and those traits are reflected in the way they celebrate Christmas. Nine-in-ten Millennials say they take part in Christmas, but only four-in-ten say they do so mainly as a religious holiday, according to a survey we conducted in 2013.

Belief that Jesus Christ was born to a virginThat stands in contrast to those in older generations, who in some cases are more likely to say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, attend religious services for Christmas and believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, according to a new look at the data.

Instead, 43% of Millennials say Christmas to them is more of a cultural holiday – about as many as celebrate it as a religious holiday (40%). By contrast, members of older generations are more likely to say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. Among Baby Boomers, for example, more than twice as many see Christmas as more religious (56%) than cultural (26%).

Plans for Christmas Eve and Christmas DaySimilarly, about half of Millennials (49%) said before Christmas in 2013 that they did not plan to attend religious services on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, compared with 41% of Boomers and 35% of Silent generation members. And while fully one-quarter of Millennials (26%) say they do not they believe Jesus Christ was born to a virgin, about one-in-five or fewer among older generations say the same.

Christmas and holiday traditions by geDespite these religious differences, Millennials celebrate many of the cultural parts of Christmas at roughly equal rates to older Americans – and sometimes at even higher rates. For instance, about nine-in-ten Millennials (91%) said they planned to buy gifts for friends or family during the 2013 holiday season, higher than the share of members of the Silent generation (79%) and Baby Boomers (86%) who said the same. And Millennials are at least as likely as their elders to say they planned to attend a gathering with extended family or friends, put up a Christmas tree or go caroling.

The one exception among the cultural traditions mentioned in the survey is the sending of Christmas or holiday cards. Members of the Silent generation (76%), Baby Boomers (68%) and Generation Xers (65%) are all more likely than Millennials (57%) to say they send such cards.

Topics: Christians and Christianity, Generations and Age, Millennials

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is an editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.

Leave a Comment

All comments must follow the Pew Research comment policy and will be moderated before posting.