Take down the Christmas tree Holiday Conifer and pack up the Nativity set Biblical-themed diorama: The War on Christmas is over, and the secularists have won.
While Fox News was busy insisting that Santa (and Jesus) are white, a couple of new polls pointed to something that the network has been warning about for years: Christmas has gradually become less of a religious holiday, and more of a cultural one.
First up, a Public Religion Research Institute survey released Tuesday found that almost half (49 percent) of Americans believe stores should use non-denominational greetings like "Happy Holidays." That's up slightly from three years ago, when 44 percent preferred less-religious platitudes to the traditional "Merry Christmas."
At the same time, just under half of all Americans (49 percent) now believe the biblical story of Christmas — virgin birth, angels, three wise men, and so on — is historically accurate. That's a steep decline from a decade ago, when fully two thirds of Americans believed the story was completely true.
So what happened to America? In a word: Aging.
Younger Americans are far less likely than older ones to view Christmas as a religious holiday. Much like how same-sex marriage, marijuana legalization, and other once-untouchable wedge issues have been blunted by the nation's shifting demographics, the same phenomenon is evident in America's changing views of Christmas.
A recent Pew poll bears out this point. In the survey, 51 percent of respondents say Christmas is "more of a religious holiday," while 32 percent say it is more so a cultural one. But among adults ages 18–29, only a 39 percent minority say they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday; among those 65 and up, 66 percent say the same.
Moreover, though seven in 10 respondents in the survey say they typically went to religious Christmas services as children, only 54 percent say they plan to do the same this year.
The shift reflects America's growing body of so-called nones, or the religiously unaffiliated, whose share of the population rose from 15 to 20 percent in the last five years alone. With that group on the rise, and with millennials beginning to skew the nation's overall demographic makeup, an uptick in support for a more secular Christmas should be expected.
So Fox News is sort of right in saying that "Yes, Virginia, there really is a War on Christmas." But the war isn't one being waged by fanatical, intolerant liberals and foaming-at-the-mouth atheists. It's one being waged by inexorable shifts in America's demographics and beliefs.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The latent sexism of the male marriage proposal
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Bush vs. Clinton in 2016 is the perfect way to make millennials hate politics even more
- Diagnosing the Home Alone burglars' injuries: A professional weighs in
- After Ferguson: Stop deferring to the cops
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- The real story behind Deliver Us From Evil
- This judge is the reason we're still fighting over net neutrality
- The hilarious hypocrisy of Republicans complaining about the imperial presidency
- The week's best photojournalism
Subscribe to the Week