(RNS) — Most Americans plan to give a dozen gifts during the holiday season, put at least some decorations up on their house and will leave their Christmas tree up until the new year or a bit longer.
They also worry that people have forgotten the real meaning of Christmas.
Some still believe in Santa.
And not everyone cares what Mariah Carey wants for Christmas.
Those are among the findings of a recent holiday-related survey from Ipsos, a global public opinion polling and market research firm. The survey of 1,023 adults, fielded in early December, asked about a variety of topics, from when it’s OK to start playing Christmas music in public to whether Americans would be comfortable attending a holiday party thrown by someone from a different religion than their own.
Three-quarters of those surveyed agreed with the statement “Most Americans have forgotten the real meaning of Christmas,” including 84% of Christians and 60% of those with no religion. Americans over 65 (81%) and those 18-24 (66%) agreed, as did Republicans (88%) and Democrats (66%).
The survey did not identify the real meaning of Christmas.
Americans did appear to keep their faith in Santa — about half (48%) of those with kids under 18 said the kids believe in Santa, while 21% of adults said they did as well. And 70% said they’d be comfortable going to a holiday party that celebrated a different faith than their own.
The survey revealed some strong feelings about Christmas music. Fifteen percent of Americans felt that the most annoying or overplayed Christmas song was either “All I Want for Christmas Is You” (12%) — a 1994 hit by Carey that still tops the Billboard charts— or any other song by Carey (3%).
“Jingle Bells” (6%), “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” (5%), “Santa Baby” (2%) and a catchall answer of “all Christmas songs” (4%) also got votes for most annoying or overplayed. Sixteen other songs — from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” to “White Christmas” — annoy at least 1% of Americans.
Nearly half (46%) did not name a song that bugged them. Almost all of those surveyed (94%) said Christmas songs should not be played in public until after Thanksgiving.
“Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” and “Santa Baby,” along with “The Christmas Shoes,” “Please Daddy Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas” and “Mary Did You Know,” made a list of the worst Christmas songs compiled by writer and author Emmy Kegler, who is running an NCAA tournament-style bracket on Instagram to see which will be named the worst.
Half of the most popular 25 songs on the current Billboard top 100 charts have Christmas themes, with Brenda Lee’s “Rocking Around the Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bell Rock” by Bobby Helms, “A Holly Jolly Christmas” by Burl Ives, Wham’s “Last Christmas” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” by Andy Williams joining Carey in the top 10.
The list of 25 most played holiday songs published by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers places “All I Want for Christmas” at No. 9, with “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” and “Sleigh Ride” topping the list. “Feliz Navidad” by José Feliciano came in at No. 13.
The Ipsos survey asked respondents to rate on a scale of zero to 10 how much they decorate their homes, with 10 being “your entire house and lawn covered in lights.” Half (52%) rated their homes between 2 and 5, while 2% said their house was a 10. And more than half (61%) leave the decorations up until January or later.
Fifteen percent said they don’t decorate at all for Christmas or the holidays.
A few (10%) Americans say it’s OK to leave decorations up after January — including 3% who say it’s fine to leave them up all year round.
Count Bekah Stoneking among the latter.
For years, Stoneking, a writer and editor in Nashville, Tennessee, put her Christmas tree up in October and left it there until March. In the fall, she’s decorated with pine cones, along with gold or brown ornaments, then switched to more Christmas decorations during the winter, and Valentine’s Day decorations in February.
During 2020, she left the tree up all year, to add a little joy in a hard time. The tree went up in October of 2021 and stayed up through the spring this year but came down for a bit when the lights burned out. It’s back up now. Having a tree, she said, gives her a chance to be creative.
“I almost always have a tree up,” she said. “It’s only sometimes a Christmas Tree.”
Tara Bready in Dallas takes a more traditional approach — the tree goes up right after Thanksgiving and comes down in early January, at the end of the 12 days of Christmas. She and her family also extend their gift-giving: Instead of opening all the presents on Christmas morning, they open a few at a time, trying to appreciate the thoughtfulness of those who gave the gifts.
Bready said her family tries to slow down and savor the season, taking time to reflect on the message of Christmas and the hope that the coming of the Christ child brought. They also have fun — and enjoy traditional carols and Christian music, along with songs with a more seasonal message.
There’s one song, the 1940s hit “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” which lost popularity in recent years over concerns about its lyrics, that she hopes to never hear again.
Otherwise, she relishes Christmas music.
“I can celebrate Christmas with other fun, happy traditions, like Santa Claus and sleigh bells,” she said.
Justin Woulard, a pastor in Shillington, Pennsylvania, will turn the radio off if “Baby It’s Cold Outside” comes on. And he’s heard “All I Want for Christmas Is You” a few too many times — though he said the rise of streaming music services makes it easier to avoid songs he doesn’t care for.
In the past, he got tired of Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmas Time.” But that song has fallen in popularity, he said.
“I named my daughter after Paul McCartney,” he said. “And it’s still not my favorite song. I would much rather listen to Sufjan Stevens or The Pogues.”
Like most Protestant pastors, Woulard said his church plans to have services this year on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Woulard said he and his congregation plan on a low-key, cozy celebration on Christmas Day this year. He invited the kids in the church to come in their pajamas — an idea some of the adults were excited about as well.
The pastor said he looked at the weather report and thought better of it.
“It’s going to be 15 degrees,” he said.