by Sammy Bonasso, ’20

Although the holidays have deeply religious roots, especially in Christianity, they are greatly secular celebrations in the United States.

For example, many of the entities and objects that America associates with Christmas are more cultural, not religious, icons. Additionally, 81 percent of non-christians observe Christmas according to Pew Research.

The great amount of cultural factors contributing to this secularism prevents one from completely understanding its origin. Regardless, based off national data and trends, people can conjecture the causes of the secularism and the holiday’s future.

Noteworthy Findings

The amount of American christians is decreasing and shifted from 80 to 75 percent between 2008 and 2015, according to Gallup. And, despite that three-quarters of Americans are christian, only half of all Christmas celebrators viewed the holiday as strongly religious in 2010.

UAHS history teacher Nate Palmer finds that America is growing less religious and more skeptical of traditional Judeo-Christian worldviews.

“If you look at America in the 1950s and the ‘60s, more people seemed to believe Judeo-Christian values were good for America, even if some didn’t agree with all of them. Now, I’m not so sure as many people today would say the same,” Palmer said.

Assessing Traditions

Christmas traditionally celebrates Jesus Christ’s birth. Indeed, a large amount of Christians still observe Advent, attend Christmas Eve worship and sing hymns, all celebrations pertaining to this event.

Nevertheless, the secular traditions that Christmas-celebrators keep include decorating trees, exchanging gifts, and anticipating the arrival of Santa Claus.

Pastor Jason McCauley from Riverside Nazerene Church in Xenia, Ohio stated that secular traditions are deeply ingrained in American culture. He cautioned Christians celebrating the holiday, as he considered even Christmas services that focus on aethetic rather than message to potentially distract.

“I think the biggest thing [for Christians] is [to] never forget the reason you’re celebrating,” McCauley said. “If we can just remember why we’re celebrating—the birth of Christ—and if we can remember what he offers, I think that’s the important part.”

Looking Forward

Palmer believes the holiday is growing more secular. He noted, however, that his views arise from his general senses and not definite knowledge.

“It seems like people are more comfortable in talking about [things like] ‘let’s celebrate this season’ and not any particular religious messages,” Palmer said.

On the other hand, McCauley displayed optimism about the holiday’s direction.

“I see [Christmas] becoming less secular, although maybe not on such a scale that everybody will notice… I see more outreach, more giving, more outward focus. As long as churches are able to do that and stay true to their message while still inviting you into a service, then it’s not becoming more secular, I don’t think.”

Ultimately, every person differs in opinion and practice regarding religion and the holidays. Therefore, every person will explain the current state of the holidays differently, and no one can eliminate all bias.