- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas is still a merry holiday despite the reports of its demise, presented with considerable media fanfare earlier this month. Most Americans celebrate the holiday, and a majority want more emphasis placed on the celebration of the birth of Christ.

Seventy-one percent of Americans consider Christmas the nation’s most important holiday, topping the Fourth of July at 61 percent and Thanksgiving at 46 percent, according to a survey Dec. 19 by Rasmussen Reports.

Nine of 10 Americans celebrate Christmas, and 85 percent plan a special dinner with family and friends, the Rasmussen pollsters found. Sixty-five percent would like to see more emphasis on the birth of Jesus Christ and 60 percent plan to attend church services on Christmas Eve or Day.

Despite the occasional dispute over holiday displays, 78 percent “believe that Christian holiday symbols such as baby [Jesus] lying in a manger should be allowed on public land, while only 9 percent disagree,” Rasmussen found. This view is held by 93 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats. The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Dec. 15-16, has a margin of error of three percentage points.

A new Harris Poll of 2,429 adults found that seven of 10 Americans think spending time with family and friends is the true charm of Christmas; receiving gifts was cited by only 2 percent as the most important aspect of the day. The oft-reported holiday rage may be more whimper than rage.

“Most Americans seem to be coping quite well with the holiday hullabaloo,” says Gallup analyst Lydia Saad. “The majority (62 percent) experience at worst only minor stress. Most Americans describe holiday shopping as a joyful experience they look forward to.”

Kindness has not flagged, either.

“Millions of compassionate souls take time during the holidays to help people who are hurt, feed those who are hungry, and shelter those who need homes,” President Bush said in his Christmas message this year.

Indeed, Americans collect toys, give their time or money and make meals. The congregation of New Life Ministries in Coshocton, Ohio, for example, will both deliver and serve Christmas dinners to less fortunate neighbors — turkey, ham, green beans, mashed potatoes, gravy, noodles, dinner roll and dessert, says Pastor Mark Granger.

North Dakota-based Tharaldson Lodging Co., which operates several hundred Marriott Courtyard Suites, Comfort Inns and other hotels in 36 states, offers free rooms to people visiting friends or family in hospitals and nursing homes each Christmas Eve. The “Room in the Inn” program began in 1988.

With a $1,500 donation from Wal-Mart, 15 youngsters from a shelter for abused children in Central Florida were taken Christmas shopping this week by off-duty policemen. So many officers volunteered that some officers were turned away, said Police Commander Jeff Pearson, who called the effort “an opportunity of a lifetime.”

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