Mystery shoppers commissioned by the Bible Society found that 1.2% of card designs in the shops they visited featured the Christmas story.
A survey of a dozen shops, from supermarkets to specialist card shops, was carried out by brand auditors Nielsen in the Birmingham area in the first week of December. It found that out of a total of 5,706 designs, only 66 featured the nativity story.
Even counting other religious designs like churches, choirs and stars, the total was 2 per cent of all designs surveyed.
Nielsen carried out the research in and around Birmingham from the 3rd to the 7th of December 2012. They checked individual cards and cards in boxes too.
The findings emerged a week after the 2011 census results were released, showing about 60% of the UK population would describe themselves as Christian.
In a poll by ICM for Bible Society this week, more than half of families (52%) with children aged 7-12 said they intended to go to a school nativity play before Christmas. Overall, parents and children scored 6 out of 10 in a nativity quiz, and awareness of some details of the Christmas story – like where Jesus was born – was as high as 98%.
Ann Holt, a director at the Bible Society of England and Wales admitted she has nothing against other seasonal symbols like snow, robins, trees and Santa. But she says that people know the story precisely because the visible symbols of the nativity story are passed from generation to generation through schools and parents, and nativity plays and Christmas cards are essential to this:
‘If you’ve got a home where you have pictures of the nativity around for 3 or 4 weeks of the year - particularly if you’ve got a home with children, its gives you a fantastic opportunity to tell that story and so pass it on. And people do. People love the Christmas story -- it stays with us precisely because it is visible and popular. So how come it's so hard to find a picture of it in the shops?’
Bible Society has launched an online design-your-own Christmas card service and designs featuring nativity scenes are the most sought after.