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Eggnog? Fruitcake? Saint Leo University Polling Institute Looks at Favorite Holiday Flavors, Traditions

Saint Leo University’s Polling Institute examines the holidays and 79.5 percent of respondents say they will celebrate Christmas. They’re not fans of the traditional fruity dessert, though!

If you are dreading receiving a fruitcake from your great-aunt Tilly this Christmas, you are not alone as many Americans give the old-fashioned treat a big thumbs down, according to a new Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey. Topping the list of favorite holiday flavors is eggnog.      

The poll took a look at popular Christmas flavors and traditions in an online survey October 17-23, among 1,000 total respondents nationally. The resulting margin of error for the results is 3.0 percentage points in either direction. In Florida, where Saint Leo’s residential campus is located, 500 additional people were polled. The margin of error for the responses is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Most Americans surveyed, 79.5 percent, say they plan to celebrate Christmas in 2021, which is down from 88.9 percent in 2019. In Florida, where the university and the polling institute are based, 82 percent of the 500 polled say they will celebrate Christmas this year.

FruitcakeDreaded Fruitcake

The holiday season conjures up memories made with family and friends—some of them good and some of them not so great.

Saint Leo University asked poll respondents to give a “thumbs up” or a “thumbs down” on a few traditional holiday items and traditions such as eating or gifting fruitcake, displaying a non-artificial Christmas tree, hanging mistletoe (and kissing underneath it), and roasting chestnuts—as in the traditional The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire) made popular by Nat King Cole.

Fruitcake is the big loser in the poll with 55.8 percent saying they would give it a thumbs down. By contrast, poll respondents show a clear preference for having a live or “real” tree (which are in short supply this year), at 65.9 percent.

National Results

Thumbs Up - %

Thumbs Down - %

Unsure - %





Real Christmas tree (not artificial)








Roasting chestnuts





Florida Results

Thumbs Up - %

Thumbs Down - %

Unsure - %





Real Christmas tree (not artificial)








Roasting chestnuts




“Personally, I hate fruit cake, but it does bring back fond memories for me,” said Justin Bush, director of Dining Services for Saint Leo University and an executive chef. “Every year, my grandmother and I would bake fruit cakes to give away as Christmas favors. She loved fruit cake! Me, not so much! I think fruit cake is definitely an acquired taste for many.”

egg-nog-gfa3f06b86_1920Favorite Flavors

While visions of sugar plums may be dancing in children’s heads during the Christmas season, the recent Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey asked adults which holiday flavors stand out.

Among national poll respondents, the favorite flavor is eggnog at 20.3 percent; followed by gingerbread at 19.2 percent, peppermint at 15.8 percent, and pumpkin spice coming in last at 12.5 percent. Nearly as many people say they cannot decide, though.

The following table displays the results as collected:

Favorite Holiday Flavors/Traditions

National 2021 - %

Florida 2021 - %










Pumpkin Spice



None of these



All of these, or can’t pick a favorite






“My favorite winter flavor would definitely be peppermint,” said Bush, Saint Leo’s director of Dining Services. “It reminds me of the crisp, cool air of Christmastime. The runner-up would be gingerbread for me, but I love to eat the old-fashioned ginger snap cookies all year long. During the holiday season, Saint Leo’s Dining Services definitely incorporates festive flavors in our dessert offerings and many of our hot beverages. Benedict's Coffeehouse is currently offering peppermint and sugar cookie flavors for the Christmas season.”

About the Poll

METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from October 17, 2021, through October 23, 2021, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.

The statewide survey was also conducted during the same time period, among a base of 500 respondents, using an online instrument. The sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 500 respondents.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

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