WASHINGTON — Amid the intense controversy over the appropriate greetings to be made this time of year, the nation's governors have overwhelmingly opted for ``Happy Holidays'' greetings over ``Merry Christmas'' in their annual cards.

An in-depth Stateline.org survey concluded that 37 of the nation's 50 governors chose the more generic ``holidays'' formula, nine went for the more traditional Christmas greetings and four haven't sent official cards at all.

Being politicians, many governors opted for subtle inclusions of religion, the survey found, with ``at least a dozen--including eight with generic holiday greetings''--mixing in a bit of religion. For example, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's card doesn't say ``Merry Christmas,'' but it features a decorated Christmas tree he painted.

Some, such as Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's card, don't say ``Merry Christmas,'' but the card is dated Christmas 2005. Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, who is Jewish, has a card that says ``Season's Greetings'' but includes a picture of a decorated tree and the photo is dated Christmas 2005.

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is by far the ``most prolific'' card sender, mailing about 40,000 greetings. The shortest official card mailer is North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, who sent 287 cards--all to members of the North Dakota National Guard on duty in Iraq and Germany, or going to Afghanistan.

The survey found three governors--from Minnesota, Nevada and New Mexico--in what it called the ``bah, humbug'' category, since they aren't sending official cards. A fourth governor, Louisiana's Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, hadn't decided whether to send greetings.

For those who sent cards, the survey found, family photos were the most popular feature, with at least eight including a shot of the family mutt.

On the religious side, only one governor, Bob Riley of Alabama, names ``the risen Christ.'' Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist minister, mentions Christmas four times, in addition to ``our Savior's birth'' and the ``Messiah.''

A new national poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that more Americans prefer ``Merry Christmas'' to the secular options by 60 to 23 percent. But 45 percent said it doesn't matter either way. Pew also funds Stateline.org.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.