Generation Z and the Holiday Season


What does the holiday season mean for the Generation that is “taking Christ out of Christmas”?

Most of Generation Z (which includes people who are currently between the ages of six and 24) has grown up with technology in our hands and tolerance in our hearts. This generation is more socially liberal than previous generations and is known for its progressive views on things like gender identity, sexuality, and racial and gender equality. However, as these views have gained strength among “Gen Z-ers,” studies have shown that an increasing number of young people are less religious than previous generations. 

Not only are young people less interested in practicing religion, but atheism is also on the rise. Research conducted by Impact 360, a religious non-profit organization, confirmed this trend when they came to the conclusion after a year-long study that “the percentage of [Generation] Z that identifies as an atheist is double that of the U.S. adult population [that identifies as an atheist].” 13% of Generation Z identify as atheists. That is roughly 7,930,000 Americans (based on the statistic that there are 61 million people in the U.S. that are part of Generation Z).

In early December, when the holiday season was approaching, these statistics got me thinking. If the holiday season is not about religion for many members of Generation Z, what is it about?

To answer this question, I asked some Sleepy Hollow students what the holiday season means to them. “To me, the holiday season means being with family and friends, and appreciating their presence while it lasts,” one sophomore answered. Another student responded, “To me, the holiday season means giving to others and sharing with family. You get to see family you don’t usually see, and eat fancy food.” My personal favorite was from a sophomore who said, “To me, the holiday season means spending time with the people I love. It is also an opportunity to give back to the people who make my life better.”

Generally, all responses had something to do with being around the people they care about. Additionally, answers referenced the “spirit” of the holidays or food. It was very interesting that none of the responses mentioned religion. This anecdotal evidence suggests that the religious connotation of the holiday season has been diluted for many, if not all members of our generation. Of course, religion is still an important part of many students’ holiday celebrations, but it is clearly not universal. 

Among the students with whom I spoke, responses showed that some members of Generation Z view the winter holidays as a time to reconnect with their loved ones and to be grateful for the life they are living rather than actively practicing a religion. I purposely asked the participants a general question -what does the holiday season mean to you?- not to skew responses and to include all religions  Since no responses mentioned religion in here at Sleepy, I wondered what the responses would have been like in typically more conservative parts of the country. Would this general question about the holiday season instantly spark a religious response in the South, for instance, even for Gen Z-ers?  I hope everyone had a wonderful winter break and was able to spend it how ever they wished to celebrate, whether that involved going to a place of worship or staying home with friends or family by the fireplace.