Christmas Present

Further to our recent post on the religious meaning of Christmas in contemporary Britain, as recorded by GfK NOP/The Children’s Society (, additional insights are provided in a poll released by the theological think-tank Theos on 8 December. The study was undertaken by ComRes by telephone among a representative sample of 1,005 adult Britons aged 18 and over between 3 and 5 December.

46% of respondents said that the birth of Jesus would be irrelevant to their Christmas, whereas 51% disagreed with the statement and 3% did not know what to think. These results were similar to those obtained in a previous ComRes/Theos poll in November 2008, in which 52% agreed that the birth of Jesus was significant to them personally.

There were fewer than expected variations by demographic sub-groups in this year’s survey, surprisingly, even by age cohort. The major exception was that Scots were especially prone to disagree that Jesus would be irrelevant to their Christmas (65%). Women (56%) also dissented more than men (47%).

36% stated that they would be attending a Christmas church service this year, women (43%) far more than men (29%). Adults aged under 55 were below-average attenders (especially the 35-44s), with the over-65s most dutiful (44%).

Social class also made a difference, with 44% of the AB social group planning to worship and manual workers being least inclined to turn out. 62% of all adults did not expect to go to a church service, with 2% unsure.

The 36% figure for anticipated attendance represented a drop of 8% on the ComRes/Theos 2008 statistic. However, as demonstrated by previous Christmas research, the good intentions of the majority of these would-be congregants are likely to evaporate before Christmas actually comes.

These data should therefore be taken more to illustrate the proportion thinking that they ought to go to church over Christmas rather than as a guide to those who will actually do so on the day.

Other questions not touching directly on the religious aspects of Christmas were: a) 41% intended to spend less on Christmas presents than in 2009, 41% the same and just 14% more; b) 13% were prepared to borrow money to buy decent Christmas presents and 86% not; c) 93% expected to pass Christmas Day in the company of family and/or friends and 6% to be on their own; d) 18% of people dreaded Christmas but 81% disagreed; e) 54% believed Christmas is overrated and 44% not; and f) 61% considered Christmas is mainly for children and 38% not.

The Theos press release for this poll can be found at:

The full data tables are available at:

British Religion in Numbers: All the material published on this website is subject to copyright. We explain further here.

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