Christmastime is here and a new poll reveals the cards and gifts that are part of celebrating the holiday are ubiquitous, even among those who don't share the Christian beliefs behind the story of the Magi who gave the first Christmas gifts.
According to the Associated Press-GfK poll, 77 percent of Americans plan to exchange gifts this holiday season and 48 percent will send greeting cards. The gift-giving set includes about 8 in 10 Christians and 73 percent of those who say they have no religious beliefs.
Greeting cards also cross denominational lines, with 53 percent of Protestants, 55 percent of Catholics and 40 percent of those without religious beliefs saying they will send cards this year.
Here's a look at how Americans view this season's greetings:
THE PHOTO CARD GENERATION
Americans who aren't religious are less likely to send cards because they tend to be younger, and young people are less apt to send cards, regardless of their religious beliefs. Fifty-two percent of non-religious Americans over age 50 plan to send cards, not far off the 57 percent of Protestants and 64 percent of Catholics in that age group who will send them.
Young people are the least likely of all demographic groups to say they'll send cards this year. Just 29 percent of Americans under age 30 plan to, compared with 64 percent of seniors. The young are also the least likely to receive cards. Two-thirds under age 30 receive five Christmas cards or less per year. Among seniors, just 18 percent receive five or fewer cards in a typical year.
Those under-30s, raised in the age of email, are most likely to reject the concept of cards altogether. Asked what type of card they prefer to receive, 21 percent say none, thanks. Just 8 percent of seniors share that view.
Younger adults who do like holiday cards are more likely to say they want a photo card, while the older set tends to prefer handwritten notes or Christmas letters. A third of those under age 50 say photo cards are their favorites, compared with 18 percent of those age 50 or older. Among those 50 or older, 54 percent prefer a pre-printed or boxed card with a note or a personal signature, compared with 36 percent of younger adults. Another 12 percent age 50 or older say they'd really like a Christmas letter. And regardless of age, no one embraces the holiday e-card: Just 2 percent say they want one of those.
MARRIAGE, GENDER GAPS ON CARDS AND GIFTS
Women are more likely than men to say they will send seasonal greetings to friends or loved ones this year, with married women most likely of all to send a card full of holiday cheer. About two-thirds of married women said they will send out cards, compared with 52 percent of married men, 42 percent of unmarried women and just 31 percent of unmarried men.
On the gift front, married people are more apt to give presents than those who aren't married (82 percent plan to exchange gifts this year compared with 66 percent of those who have never been married), though the gap between men and women among married people is significantly smaller than the card gap (84 percent of married women plan to give gifts compared to 80 percent of married men).
HANDMADE VS. STORE BOUGHT
D-I-Y is not on Americans' wish list. Asked whether they prefer to receive a store-bought gift or a handmade one, Americans err on the side of the stores. By a 62 percent to 35 percent margin, people prefer their gifts to come from the store. Women (41 percent), rural residents (43 percent) and whites (38 percent) are most apt to favor handmade presents.
When giving, however, the preference for store-bought wares is even stronger. Overall, 85 percent of Americans who will exchange gifts this year say they would rather buy a gift than make one. Women (17 percent) are still more likely than men to prefer handmade gifts.
HOW MANY STAMPS?
When it comes to cards, Americans receive more than they give. Although 50 percent of Americans say they won't send any cards this year, just 11 percent say they don't typically receive any cards. Forty percent say they usually get more than 10 cards around the holidays.
Among the 48 percent who say they will send a card this year, 50 percent say they will send fewer than 20 cards. Those who plan to send more drive up the average to about 30 cards per sender, including 11 percent who say they plan to send more than 50 cards this year, presumably including one for the postman.