On Sunday night, Christmas Eve, Trump tweeted:
People are proud to be saying Merry Christmas again. I am proud to have led the charge against the assault of our cherished and beautiful phrase. MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 25, 2017
Although no American was barred from wishing others a “Merry Christmas” before Trump entered the White House, some of his supporters were frustrated, if not angered, by the number of politicians saying “Happy Holidays” in addition to “Merry Christmas.” President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor, wished Americans a “Merry Christmas” many times when he was president — and continues that tradition to this day.
But Obama also recognized that America included people who did not celebrate Christmas but marked other winter holidays — or none at all. This truth actually did not appear to be much of a problem for Trump before he launched his 2016 campaign, considering that his previous holiday greetings on Twitter were of the more inclusive kind.
But some in Trump’s base, especially the white evangelicals who voted for him in high numbers, are uncomfortable with the United States increasingly becoming a multifaith nation.
Evangelical leader Franklin Graham told Fox News that it is essential that people know that Christmas is a Christian holiday. “Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus Christ, and that's what we're all celebrating,” he said.
“Christmas is all about Christ. I'm so excited that the president isn't afraid to mention the name of Jesus Christ,” he added.
It's a sentiment that many others echo. Melissa Cobb, a 48-year-old hairstylist in Linden, Tenn., told The Washington Post’s Jenna Johnson that she was offended by what she considers the disappearance of Jesus from the holiday commemorating his birth.
“It offends me to see at the stores, where they just do 'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings.' It should be 'Merry Christmas.' Put Christ back into Christmas. That's what it's supposed to be. … I just wish we would all get on the same page.”
But the likelihood of Americans getting on “the same page” as Cobb and other Trump supporters about the meaning of Christmas is not high.
The majority of Americans do not primarily view Christmas as a religious holiday. According to Pew Research Center polls, only 46 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas as primarily a religious (rather than cultural) holiday, a five-point decrease from 2013.
And this doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon, considering that millennials are even less likely than older adults to include a religious component in their Christmas celebration.
And most Americans recognize this, with a majority of adults — 56 percent — saying that the religious aspects of Christmas are less emphasized in society than in years past.
When asked whether Christian symbols such as Nativity scenes should be allowed on government property, the percentage of Americans who say such displays should not be allowed is growing — from 20 percent three years ago to 26 percent today.
Although most Americans gladly celebrate Christmas and probably will continue to wish others a “Merry Christmas,” for many Trump supporters, America won’t truly be great again until Christianity regains its central position in this increasingly multifaith and secular society.
But the data suggests that for most Americans, what would make the nation great is acknowledging the diversity of its citizens' values while allowing them the freedom to celebrate the birth of Christ as they please.