Five Percent of Americans Celebrate No December Holiday

December 23, 2013

Yes, I know that quite a few secular humanists and other freethinkers celebrate the Solstice, HumanLight, Newton’s Birthday, or even a bowdlerized form of Christmas this time of year. Even so, a new PRRI/RNS survey (click the link at bottom) indicates that the number of Americans who tell pollsters that they celebrate no holiday in December has reached 5 percent. 5 percent? That’s more than double the usual figure for the size of the American Jewish community (2.2 percent). Who knows, this year that figure may include a large number of American Jews, given that Hanukkah unfolded mostly in November.

The survey did not indicate how many of the noncelebrants were also nonreligious, but I can’t help thinking that a significant number of them must be atheists or seculars.

Think about this. Decades ago, the American Jewish community, which then comprised perhaps 3 or 4 percent of the population, was able to compel the shift from “Merry Christmas” to “Happy Holidays” simply out of respect for Hanukkah. Today the nation is more diverse, and “Happy Holidays” also allows for folks who celebrate Kwanzaa, Diwali, Festivus, and (in some years) one or another Islamic Eid. The group that “Happy Holidays” disregards is, of course, those who aren’t celebrating anything this time of year. Many who celebrate nothing this month presumably find it annoying, even disrespectful, when others share a greeting that casually assumes that everyone is celebrating something as year’s end draws near.

With 5 percent of Americans not celebrating anything, maybe it’s time to take that next step past “Happy Holidays,” and recognize that not everybody has any holiday to celebrate during this so-called festive season.