For majority of Canadians, Christmas’ importance lies in time with family, a break from everyday life and time for reflection

For majority of Canadians, Christmas’ importance lies in time with family, a break from everyday life and time for reflection
Significant number – more than half – say religious aspect of Christmas still comes first

December 22, 2014 – As Canadians prepare to join loved ones over the Christmas season, they do so as residents of a multidenominational and multicultural country. Their opinions in regards to the significance, meaning and celebration of December 25th, however, show much common ground. 

Angus Reid Institute

An online survey of more than 1500 Canadian adults conducted by the Angus Reid Institute and the University of Lethbridge shows:

  • The vast majority of respondents (80%) prefer to call this time of year “Christmas” rather than the “Holiday Season”.
  • Nearly all respondents (94%) regardless of their religious or cultural background, say spending time with friends and family is what makes Christmas special.
  • A significant number (54%) say it’s the religious aspect and “celebrating the birth of Christ” that makes Christmas special.
  • Three-quarters (76%) of Canadians say Christmas’ best quality is in the way it provides a breather from everyday life.

Key Findings:

Four-in-five respondents (80%) prefer to refer to the time of year as “Christmas” rather than the “Holiday Season,” for reasons that variously seem to reflect family, culture, and religion. For example, two-in-five (37%) say they will be attending a “Christmas” service this year, and according to an Angus Reid survey last year, will be saying grace at Christmas dinner. That said, three-in-five will be doing neither. “Christmas” clearly means different things to different people.

In contrast to their different takes on the meaning of Christmas, Canadians are virtually unanimous (94%) in saying that what makes Christmas so special is the opportunity to be with family and friends – with that opportunity valued pervasively by people of all ages (three-quarters, 71 per cent, describe it as a “very special”) led slightly by those who are older.

Gifts and Christmas dinner have both been historically enshrined as key features of the season. One-in-four (26%) single out the giving and receiving of gifts as a feature that makes things “very special,” compared to more than half (56%) who say the same about that much-anticipated meal together.

Angus Reid Institute

Religion and Spirituality: 

With respect to the religious and spiritual facets of Christmas, roughly half of Canadians say that having the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Christ and/or receive spiritual nourishment with loved onesAngus Reid Institute makes Christmas time “very special” (29% and 23% respectively) or “somewhat special” (25% and 31% respectively).

A significant number of Canadians – two-in-five (37%) say they will attend a Christmas service. That is twice as many as those who say they normally attend monthly or more (18%). A rough calculation against population statistics indicates this could be as many as many as 10 million people in church on the 25th.

Most may only be showing up once a year or so – particularly in the case of Quebec Catholics, Catholics elsewhere, and Mainline Protestants. But their presence suggests a “latent faith” does exist in Canada.

Angus Reid Institute

An “Important Breather” and Time for Reflection:

In spite of the known stresses that come with this time of year, three-in-four Canadians say Christmastime with family and friends is special in providing “a breather from everyday life.”

Other findings:

  • Over fifty per cent (53%) say they expect they will be thinking about Christmases past, including people who are no longer in their lives. For many, life “this year” will be very different, in many cases because faces of beloved family members and friends will not be there.
  • Things that are bringing them joy will be on the minds of more than seventy per cent (72%), while close to thirty per cent (28%) will also be dealing with sources of strain. Young people are more likely to be anxious: 40 per cent of people under 35 year of age. That’s twice as many as those 55+ focusing on strain (18%).
  • Some 55 per cent anticipate they will be thinking about where their lives are now, with about 40 per cent pondering things they might want to do differently. Lots of people – led by younger adults – are pondering significant changes.
  • Just over one-in-three say that the season will have them reflecting on the role “that faith – or the lack of faith” – plays in their lives, further evidence of the changing place that religion and spirituality often have in people’s lives.

Angus Reid Institute

This survey was self-commissioned and paid for by ARI. Questionnaire development and analysis was contributed in part by Dr. Reginald Bibby of the University of Lethbridge

Click here for full report including tables and methodology

Click here for Questionnaire used in this survey

Dr. Reginald Bibby, University of Lethbridge: 403-381-0151

Image Credit: Roi Karool/Flickr

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