Join Donate

Christmas is a ‘time of year for everyone’ says British public

For most Britons, including Christians, Christmas is a time of year to everyone, a new YouGov poll has found.

When asked to reflect on their view around Christmas, 74% of British adults say they believe it to be ‘a time of year for everyone’, including 78% of the non-religious, 76% of Christians, and 58% of those of all other religions. Only 9% believe Christmas to be an ‘exclusively a Christian time of year’. This includes 3% of the non-religious, 15% of Christians, and 16% of those of other religions,

These results reaffirm that Christmas is nowadays generally celebrated as a secular festival, celebrated by everyone of all religions and beliefs. Its universal appeal lies in its origins as an ancient winter festival – a time when our ancestors would gather together in the coldest months of the year, to light fires and share gifts and feasts in the warm. Many of the most popular aspects of modern Christmas, such as Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, mistletoe, and Santa Claus, have non-Christian origins and its enduring popularity reflects other secular traditions such as giving presents, gathering with loved ones, and eating a shared meal.

That Christmas is shared by all religions and beliefs also reflects a country that is shaped by pre-Christian, non-Christian, and post-Christian forces, and today has a highly diverse population. This view was reinforced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak who last year described Christmas as a ‘national time when regardless of whether you’re going to midnight Mass or to church, it’s a time when most people have time off work, we have holidays, state holidays, it is a time when everyone hangs out.’

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘Humans have gathered together at the darkest and coldest time of the year to feast and appreciate each other’s company in the warmth for many thousands of years. Sometimes the charge is levelled at humanists, and those of other religions and beliefs, that to celebrate Christmas is hypocritical, but this research puts that myth to bed. For an overwhelming majority of people in the UK, this time of year has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with celebrating the life we have with the people we love.’

Notes:

For further comment or information, media should contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at press@humanists.uk or phone 020 7324 3072 or 07534 248 596.

Christmas was first celebrated in Europe as a major festival during the Early Middle Ages. It was preceded by pagan winter festivals such as Saturnalia and Yule. Many of the most popular aspects of modern Christmas, such as Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Mistletoe, and Santa Claus, have pagan origins.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2,024 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken on 26-29 November 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Download the full dataset here: YouGov

Humanists UK is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people. Powered by 100,000 members and supporters, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. We provide ceremonies, pastoral care, education, and support services benefitting over a million people every year and our campaigns advance humanist thinking on ethical issues, human rights, and equal treatment for all.

In 2021, Humanists UK is celebrating its 125th anniversary with a renewed focus on its history. The new website Humanist Heritage is a rich new web resource that uncovers the untold story of humanism in the UK – a story of people, groups, objects, places, movements, publications, and ideas.

Search Humanists UK