Across Canada, signs of the season are everywhere: Christmas trees in windows, garlands of lights on city streets, a Santa Claus kiosk in every mall.
But according to a recent Angus Reid poll, the number of Canadians who view the holiday as reflective of Christian religious beliefs is lower than ever before.
Only 10% of respondents felt that Christmas was first and foremost a religious celebration, down from just over one-quarter of Canadians surveyed in a 1988 Gallup poll. A full 53% of Canadians say that Christmas is first and foremost a playful celebration, up slightly from 1988.
Of those who celebrate religious holidays in December, 92% cited Christmas as a holiday they celebrate. The next most common celebration, the Solstice, was celebrated by a mere 15% of respondents. There is certainly some overlap here: Individuals and families that celebrate religious holidays other than Christmas are likely to also participate in more mainstream Christmas celebrations as well.
Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that familiar Christmas traditions are holding strong: Nearly 90% of respondents expect to share a Christmas dinner with loved ones, and 77% set up a Christmas tree in their homes. But that’s only true as far as more secular traditions are concerned. The number of participants planning to set up a Nativity scene or attend a church service has dropped sharply to half of what it was when last Angus Reid asked about festive traditions, in 1995.
In spite of the decline in explicitly religious forms of celebration, the number of people who think “the true meaning of Christmas” is becoming more cloudy remains nearly unchanged since a 1953 Gallup poll asking the same question.
Sentinels in the “War on Christmas” can take heart in the knowledge that four in five Canadians still prefer to hear the season referred to as “Christmas” (as opposed to the more generic and inclusive “holiday season”)… but that’s a far cry from “keeping Christ in Christmas,” as churches would exhort us to do.
There’s no getting around it: Christmas in Canada is increasingly a secular celebration of family, friendship, playfulness, and nostalgia. Axial tilt is the reason for the season… but we might as well take advantage of the opportunity to decorate our homes, toast our loved ones, and exchange gifts with friends.
(Featured image via Shutterstock)