Christmas gets a lot of attention in the media. The news is full of stories on Christmas shopping. Television shows and movies offer numerous stories about Santa Claus and people finding the “true” meaning of Christmas (which usually means loving their families). Every business is anxious to wish its customers “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings.”
But Christmas is also the time of year when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, even though many are aware that Jesus was not likely born in December. The question is: Is any attention being paid to this religious aspect of Christmas?
Yes, there is, says Reg Bibby. Bibby is a sociologist from the University of Lethbridge whose work I have admired for decades. Just before Christmas, he sent out a news release on his most recent research: an Angus Reid Global survey he assisted with.
According to the survey, about 18% of Canadians regularly attend a Christian church, but, for various reasons, 4% were not planning on attending Christmas worship services this year. However, another 18% of Canadians, who only attend sometimes, were planning to attend a Christmas worship service. This means that a third of Canadians (32%) were planning on being in church this Christmas.
A third of the population may not seem very significant. However, a National_Post article on the research noted that the 10 million people who were planning to attend Christian churches this Christmas represent a far larger number than the 4.5 million who watched the 2013 Grey Cup game and the 3.4 million who watched the 2013 Stanley Cup final and almost as large a number as the people going to Boxing Day sales.
As Bibby’s research has repeatedly shown, despite the predictions of the experts, religion in general and Christianity in particular are not withering away in Canada. There has undoubtedly been some decline in numbers—a third of Canadians now claim no religious affiliation and never attend church—but church attendance has plateaued over the last couple of decades.
Does Bibby’s survey matter to anybody other than Christians? Perhaps. There have also been a lot of media reports about funding efforts for food banks and other general charities not reaching their targets this year. Bibby’s survey reveals that more than three-quarters of the Christmas attenders planned to give to the poor this Christmas but only about half of the non-attenders.