How Britons celebrate Christmas and Easter

Milan DinicResearch Manager
December 29, 2020, 10:46 AM UTC

Most Britons celebrate Christmas and Easter as secular rather than religious events, with many combining the two aspects

Christmas and Easter are both religious holidays – two of the most important in Christianity – but that is not how either is celebrated in the public, YouGov research has found.

When it comes to Christmas, six in ten of those who celebrate the holiday (61%) say they celebrate it as a completely secular event. For three in ten (31%) it’s a combination of religious and secular. Just 4% of Britons say they celebrate Christmas purely as a religious event.

While going to church used to be commonplace at Christmas and Easter, few Britons do so now. Only 22% go to church at Christmas, while 15% do so at Easter (and only 13% do so on both occasions).The custom of having a decorated tree at a home – which has ancient roots but, in today’s tradition, dates back to 16th century Germany – is an unmissable detail, if not the central theme, for almost every Christmas celebration.

Eight in ten (79%) of Britons say they put up a Christmas tree at home. This tradition is more popular among women (84%) than men (78%) and is equally practised across all age groups.

Other Christmas activities Britons partake in include exchanging gifts (87%), and getting together with family (81%) and friends (51%). Despite the holiday, a fifth (22%) of Britons say they work during the Christmas period. One in seven (16%) said they reflect on the birth of Christ, whilst one in eight (14%) said they pray.

When it comes to the motivations for celebrating Easter, here too it is primarily secular. The majority of those who observe the festival (56%) say they do so in an entirely secular way. Only 10% say they do so in an entirely religious fashion, while 29% combine the two.

Half of Britons (50%) say they get together with family at Easter, and a fifth (22%) with friends. Far fewer people exchange gifts at Easter (20%) than at Christmas. Similar numbers, however, say they reflect on the meaning of Easter (19%), and pray (12%).

The importance of Christmas/Easter sermons

The pope’s Christmas and Easter sermons, Urbi et Orbi – traditionally delivered on Christmas Day/Easter Sunday from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican – are broadcast to over a billion people around the world annually. However, in the UK, just a quarter of Britons (27%) say they pay attention to the Christmas/Easter message by the Pope, whilst seven in ten (71%) say they pay no attention to this.

Slightly more (32%) pay attention to the Christmas/Easter message from the Archbishop of Canterbury, but in this case as well the majority (66%) don’t.

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Britons who are 60 and older are more likely to pay attention to the Christmas/Easter messages from the Pope (36%) or the Archbishop (46%), but this is still a minority.

See the full results here