December 19, 2017 | By Craig Kafura

O Christmas Tree

Christmas is a widely-celebrated holiday in the United States, and the Christmas season is in full swing. Here in Chicago the trees on Michigan Avenue are decked out with lights, buildings around the city have sprouted giant wreathes and bows, and Christmas trees can be seen in windows everywhere.

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, nine in ten Americans (90%) will celebrate Christmas, with most Americans planning to gather with friends and family, and roughly half planning to attend religious services. The study finds that Americans are slowly shifting to viewing the Christmas holiday as more of a cultural holiday than a religious one.

Another shift in Americans’ celebration of Christmas is the Christmas tree. Though the symbol remains a popular one, Americans are changing the kind of tree they use in their homes—and a small but rising number are opting to celebrate without a tree altogether.

In 1989, a Gallup poll found that nearly nine in ten Americans (85%) planned to have a tree at home, with a plurality of Americans (45%) planning on using a real tree. Since then, the popularity of artificial trees has risen steadily. In a December 2006 CNN poll, half of Americans (53%) said they would have an artificial tree in their home this Christmas. 

But real trees still have their appeal. According to a Nielsen survey commissioned by the National Christmas Tree Association, Americans spent $2.4 billion dollars on real Christmas trees last year, 77% of which were pre-cut and 23% of which allowed Americans to put axe to wood and chop them down themselves. The trees are so popular that this year, there’s even a nationwide tree shortage.

Also notable is the slow rise of those Americans who plan to celebrate Christmas without a tree. Though only seven percent planned to do so in 1989, a CNN/ORC poll in 2014 found that nearly two in ten (18%) planned to celebrate Christmas but without a tree. Perhaps they’re hoisting a Festivus pole, or decorating with holly and berries for Saturnalia. 

Personally, I went for a small, table-sized real tree this year. 

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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