Celebrations are positive ways for communities to connect and families to bond. How we celebrate differs by ethnicity, values, traditions, and even geography. In honor of Black History Month, ThinkNow conducted a national study of U.S. adults to understand Black Americans’ attitudes and behaviors toward holiday celebrations and traditions and how they compare to other demographic groups. This report is one in a series of reports examining how Americans celebrate popular holidays throughout the calendar year. Here’s what we found.
Civil rights holidays such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Juneteenth are celebrated by 50% and 39% of Black Americans, respectively. This compares to 12% of non-Black Americans who celebrate MLK Day and 7% who celebrate Juneteenth. Black respondents indicated they were most likely to spend time with other family members on civil rights holidays. Click To Tweet
Twenty-two percent report attending parades on MLK Day, and 26% prepare a special meal for Juneteenth.
Juneteenth is the first new federal holiday since 1983 when Martin Luther King Jr. Day was enacted. While only 12% of the Total Market celebrates Juneteenth, growing pressure from consumers on brands to be more inclusive has stimulated interest in this holiday since 2020.
Despite racial divides and systemic inequities Black Americans face in this country, they celebrate patriotic holidays at surprising rates. Over 60% of Black Americans celebrate the 4th of July, which is on par with non-Black Americans. Black Americans, however, are more likely to celebrate Memorial Day (45% vs. 35%) and Presidents’ Day (28% vs. 20%) and slightly more likely to celebrate Veterans Day (29% vs. 25%) than non-Blacks. Most Black Americans celebrate the 4th of July by gathering with family and friends (73%) and preparing a special meal (40%). Memorial Day is also an occasion to gather with friends (56%).
Black Americans’ history with patriotic holidays is complicated, however. Click To Tweet
The idea of celebrating the independence of a nation at a time when the vast majority of Blacks were enslaved rang hollow and still does for some today. Or when history neglects to tell the story of thousands of Black Americans in Charleston, South Carolina, who paid tribute to fallen Confederate and Union soldiers in one of the earliest Memorial Day observances. Over time, these stories have been written out of history books and replaced with commercialism. Today, Presidents' Day is more known for mattress and appliance sales than the first president’s birthday. Perhaps holidays like Memorial Day over-index with Black Americans because they celebrate individuals over the nation as a whole.
Halloween was one of the lesser celebrated holidays among Black Americans, with only 40% celebrating compared to 49% of non-Blacks. Relatedly, about 60% of Black Americans identify as Christian when asked about their religion. Christians have a divided perspective regarding Halloween festivities, as shown by the nearly equal halves of those who do and don’t celebrate. Among Black churchgoers looking to join the holiday fun without the pagan elements, “Trunk or Treat” events have become popular, including trick or treating in a church environment with non-threatening costumes and no bubbling cauldrons. Interestingly, Black Americans are only slightly more likely to celebrate Good Friday and Easter than non-Blacks (44% vs. 41%).
Black Americans are more likely to celebrate certain holidays, like the 4th of July, alone (21% vs. 10%), according to the research, while non-Black Americans were more often celebrating with partners since only 30% of Black Americans are married vs. the national average of 48%. This, however, leads to more time spent with their extended families. For example, 59% of Blacks celebrate July 4th with other family members vs. 45% of non-Blacks. This was also true on military and civil rights holidays, with nearly half of Black Americans celebrating Juneteenth by getting together with other family members on that day.
Most spending occurs around Christmas with purchases averaging $439 for Blacks and $469 for non-Blacks. Thanksgiving and Mardi Gras are also very popular spending holidays in the Black community with spending averages around $222 and $167, respectively. Halloween spending of $153 for Black Americans is slightly less than the non-Black average of $161.
When it comes to holidays, Black Americans are surprisingly patriotic. They may be a minority in the U.S., but they have more in common with non-Hispanic Whites than Hispanics or Asians when celebrating America and lead the nation in commemorating civil rights holidays. Their religious affiliation makes them more slightly likely to celebrate Easter than the average American, but it also makes them less likely to celebrate “pagan” holidays like Halloween.
Understanding these dynamics is key to providing goods and services that have the potential to make celebrations memorable for the 47 million Black Americans in this country who wield 1.4 trillion dollars in spending power.
You can download the full report here.