SAYit Blog
What does Christmas mean to you?

Last December we asked a series of questions on the importance of Christmas and other public holidays.  I covered most of the questions in this blog around Easter on whether shops should be allowed to open on those days, but left one question out.  Now seems like a better time to share the results of that question: 'what does Christmas mean to you'.  It's a bit old now but I see no reason to think things would have changed all that much.

Results are from a UMR SAYit poll of n=1000 New Zealanders conduced in December 2013.  The exact question was: "if you had to choose one, which of the following aspects of Christmas is more important to you - remembering the birth of Jesus Christ, or a time to be with family and friends".

  • 20% chose 'remembering the birth of Jesus Christ'
  • 80% went with 'a time to be with family and friends'.

I think we can see this as pretty clear evidence of the secularisation of New Zealand (as I've documented before here).  We did force people to choose one option, and no doubt many Christians would have chosen both if we'd allowed them to, but what this does show is which of the two options people saw as the more important - and overwhelmingly that's spending time with family and friends.

There's not much difference in the demographics either, apart from age and rather surprisingly location.

  • 27% of over 60 year olds say that, for them, Christmas is mainly about remembering the birth of Jesus, compared with just 12% of under 30s.
  • 26% of those living in the lower half of the North Island (outside Wellington) say it is mainly about Jesus' birth, compared with 18% of Wellingtonians and just 12% of Cantabrians.  There's perhaps a story there about the impact of the earthquakes, that so many Cantabrians say Christmas is about being with family and friends.
  • Education has very little impact, with 19% of those with high school qualifications and 20% of those with tertiary findings seeing Christmas as mainly about Jesus' birth.

In terms of income, 33% of those with household incomes between $30,000 and $50,000 say Christmas is mainly about Jesus' birth for them, compared with 16% of those with incomes of $30,000 or less and 17% of those with household incomes over $100,000.  That 'bulge' in the income groupings surprises me and I don't have an obvious way of explaining it, but it is outside the margin of error so it's likely to be real.

I guess it's no great surprise that there's a political element here.  20% of National voters go for the 'remembering Jesus' birth' option, as do 17% of Labour voters but only 12% of Green voters.  I think that's more a reflection of who National, Labour and Green voters are in demographic terms, than about how their political views influence their views on Christmas.  National voters are more likely to be traditional and conservative (and therefore favour the 'remembering Jesus' birth' option), whereas Green voters tend to be younger and more liberal (and therefore favour the 'time with family and friends' option).

With that, I'll wish you a merry Christmas, and sign off with the some lyrics I think sum up how a lot of New Zealanders view Christmas- they're from Tim Minchin's "White Wine in the Sun" (

I'm not expecting big presentsYe olde combination of socks, jocks and chocolatesIs just fine by me

'Cause I'll be seeing my dadMy brother and sisters, my gran and my mumThey'll be drinking white wine in the sunI'll be seeing my dadMy brother and sisters, my gran and my mumThey'll be drinking white wine in the sun