It might come as a surprise to some Christians who have felt beleaguered by the usual suspects opposing holiday displays when Yuletide rolls around, but no less than 92 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas — and 72 percent believe in the virgin birth, according to a Pew Research poll released last week.
That gives a good indication of how small a minority it is that wants to stamp out Christmas in schools and public places. Belief in the virgin birth is held by 90 percent of black Americans, the poll showed, compared with 78 percent of Hispanics and 71 percent of whites. However, there is a generational gap with 76 percent of the 65-and-over group believing in the virgin birth compared to only 66 percent of those 18 to 29 years old.
Paradoxically, it seems to me, only 51 percent of those in the Pew poll observe Christmas as more of a religious holiday personally, while 32 percent see it as more of a cultural holiday. One factor could be that Dec. 25 is not actually the birth date of Christ. But again, there is a generation gap: of those 65 and over, 66 percent celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday versus only 39 percent of the 18-29 age group.
One of the best traditions is still with us. Eighty-six percent of Americans plan to get together with family and friends on Christmas as has been the practice for ages, and the same percentage is buying gifts for family and friends.
But other traditions are beginning to slip. The number of people sending greeting cards has dropped from 82 percent when the poll group was growing up to only 65 percent now. Likewise, the percentage putting up Christmas trees has declined from 92 percent to 79 percent. Sending cards has never been a strong suit for me, but the Christmas tree tradition lives on in our house, even more so it seems since we now have a large extended family for our annual gathering. For years, the tree of choice has been a flocked Frasier fir rising about nine feet toward the great room ceiling.
Giving homemade gifts is a big tradition with 58 percent of those polled saying they do this kind of special giving for the holiday. That breaks down to 65 percent of the women and 51 percent of the men, and more people in the $100,000 and up income brackets — 61 percent — give homemade gifts.
Of course, Christmas is especially for children, and what would it be without Santa Claus for the young ones? The Pew poll found that one-fifth of Americans are parents or guardians of a child who believes in Santa — and of that group, 69 percent will keep the time-honored tradition of pretending that the Jolly Old Elf visits their home this Christmas Eve.
The spirit of Christmas lives on.