For a large portion of the U.S., Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. Whether you celebrate for religious reasons or not, 85% of Americans plan to take part in Christmas festivities.1 The whole month of December is a bit of a celebration in the U.S., from Christmas light displays to cookie exchanges and parties with family and friends. The promise of some time off work to relax and anticipate a new year ahead is an exciting way to close out 2023.
By analyzing search trend data for the second year in a row, we sought to nail down which part of the country is feeling the holiday spirit most strongly this year. We also were very curious to find regional patterns and to see how this year’s online activity compared to the prior year. Surprisingly, we found out it wasn’t all about the gifts, despite the estimated $957.3 billion that will be spent on holiday retail.2 Take a look below to find out what people are searching for the most and which states seem to be the most festive this Christmas season.
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From our research data and state rankings, we discovered that for the 2nd year running, West Virginia gets the award for “Most Festive State in the U.S.” Rounding out the top five are new additions Utah, Nebraska, and Idaho, along with New Hampshire, which remains in the top five for the second year in a row. We can’t help but notice that all five of these states typically have cold and snowy winters, potentially adding to the Christmas spirit. After all, who doesn’t dream of having a white Christmas in a winter wonderland?3
But who is the most Grinch-like of them all? The District of Columbia now holds that title this year — which surprised us. Don’t many congresspeople leave town during the holiday? One might think that would be a favorite time of year for residents. New York is still close to the bottom of the festive list, similar to last year. Perhaps the massive influx of tourists to NYC each Christmas is enough to send New Yorkers into a funk. Interestingly, warm-weathered states Hawaii and Florida are also in the bottom five once again for their total festive search value. This year, California moved up on the list but still landed among the other sunny climate areas in the bottom ten.
Here are the full rankings of all states and the District of Columbia.
|State||Sum of Searches|
|51||District of Columbia||1301|
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During our analysis, we found a few regional trends when it comes to Christmas-related searches online. Two Pacific Northwest neighbors, Oregon and Washington, loved looking up information on advent calendars the most. Advent calendars have German roots; they were a fun way for 19th-century Protestants to mark down the days until Christmas.4 These calendars eventually made their way to the U.S., and in the 1950s, they took on a new look with the addition of chocolates. These days, advent calendars don’t necessarily have just small chocolates to open each day leading up to Christmas. Retailers have become increasingly creative; you can find everything from socks to beauty products in these festive calendars.
As for trends across the country, we also found that more folks on the East Coast searched for Christmas trees than in any other region. However, North Carolina wasn’t on that list despite having the top-producing county for Christmas trees in the country.5
So what about those ugly Christmas sweaters? Our friends in a large portion of the Midwest (and beyond) searched for those more than anything else related to holiday festivities. In fact, “ugly Christmas sweater” was the top search term for the following states:
In case you are wondering how ugly Christmas sweaters became so popular, it all started back in the 1980s.6 Cliff Huxtable, the beloved main character of the 80s sitcom The Cosby Show, wore a collection of eccentric sweaters that became part of his famous look. Clark Griswold, infamously portrayed by Chevy Chase in the classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, also gave new life and popularity to the Christmas sweater. But it wasn’t until the 2000s that ugly Christmas sweaters really started to become the ironic phenomenon they are today. Parties and contests to see just how tacky you can make your wardrobe have become a fun and silly way to spread some holiday cheer.
Lastly, West Virginians, residents of our “Most Festive State” this year, seem to be into all things Christmas. They were the top searchers for 10 of our festive search terms.
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While “Christmas Eve” was our study’s most popular search term last year, “ugly Christmas sweater” squeaked by to take top billing this year. Despite the trendiness of ugly Christmas sweater gatherings, we think Christmas Eve will have more staying power in the top 10 for years to come. Whether people are looking online for holiday recipes, new traditions, or church services, Christmas Eve is a holiday season highlight for many.
Here are the top five most-searched Christmas terms on our list:
Along with the others, we think it’s no surprise that Christmas music and movies made the top five on our list. Who doesn’t need some inspiration for a good playlist during a Christmas gathering? It’s also true that many people enjoy the tradition of watching Christmas movies every year, sometimes with a set list of perennial favorites. Whether you are a Hallmark channel person or like to stick with the classics (check out this list from Rotten Tomatoes), watching a good movie is a fantastic way to wind down and enjoy the holiday season.
Speaking of traditions, gift exchanges can be a lot of fun or something to dread, whether at the office or at home with the family. Most of us have probably done a last-minute Google search for gift ideas. It turns out that Secret Santa is a more popular gift exchange (ranking #10) than the White Elephant (ranking #27).
It also seems that the “Elf on the Shelf” may be declining somewhat in popularity, ranking only #17 in our list of Christmas search terms. Based on the 2005 book The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Tradition, this Christmas craze consists of a toy “scout elf” watching over the children in a household (both naughty and nice) and reporting back to the North Pole at night. While fun for kids of all ages, there’s one drawback for parents – the elf must be moved to a new location every night in preparation for the next day. If you find yourself scrambling for a new hiding place idea at midnight, you aren’t alone; however, Pinterest is a treasure trove of ideas, as well as the Elf on the Shelf website.
Interestingly, while “gingerbread house” was dead last on our list of popular Christmas search terms, Utah looked up gingerbread houses more than anything else. “Christmas cookies,” “white elephant,” “Christmas snowman,” and “winter wonderland” rounded out the rest of the bottom 5 of our search terms. Overall, there were only six terms that were top-searched in more than one state:
We used Google Trends search term data to assess which U.S. states were the most and least festive about celebrating Christmas, as well as the most popular aspects of the Christmas season across the country. To accomplish this, we used a list of dozens of search terms pertaining to Christmas festivities during the month of December 2022. We determined which terms were most frequently searched in each state and used the data to analyze the relationships between these search terms and the states. We also discovered which states were the most festive based on the sum of their search values for all the included terms.
Innerbody Research is committed to providing objective, science-based suggestions and research to help our readers make more informed decisions regarding health and wellness. We invested the time and effort into creating this report to see which states ranked the highest and lowest for fun, festive trends that occur during the Christmas season. We hope to reach as many people as possible by making this information widely available. As such, please feel free to share our content for educational, editorial, or discussion purposes. We only ask that you link back to this page and credit the author as Innerbody.com.
Innerbody uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Kunst, A. (2023, January 2). Christmas Celebration Plans Among U.S. Consumers 2022. Statista.
Sabanoglu, T. (2023, November 2). Holiday Retail Sales in the United States, 2000-2023. Statista.
National Centers for Environmental Information. (2021, December 10). Are You Dreaming of a White Christmas? National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Treisman, R. (2023, November 6). Advent Calendars, Explained: Where They Came From and Why They’re Everywhere Now. NPR.
Chiwaya, N., & Wu, J. (2018, December 12). MAP: Here’s Where Christmas Trees in the U.S. Grow. NBC News.
Berry, A. (2011, December 22). A Brief History of the Ugly Christmas Sweater. Time.