At Christmastime the pews of Canada's Catholic churches fill up with people celebrating the holiday season.
Church attendance triples — from 25 to 65 per cent — across the country at Christmas and Board of Governors Research Chair in Sociology at the University of Lethbridge Reginald Bibby says it shows that faith matters.
In the new analysis The Christmas Clue to Catholicism, co-written with Bibby and Angus Reid of the Angus Reid Institute, it shows that while most of the 12 million Canadians who identify as Catholic might not head into the halls of the local cathedral or church each week, they don't consider themselves less Catholic.
- Decking the halls can be hazardous to your health
- Pine, spruce or fir: Choosing the perfect Christmas tree
In the 1960s, about 80 per cent of Catholics were weekly churchgoers but today it's only about 15 per cent. However, about six million Catholics are expected to take part in the Christmastime celebrations, according to Bibby's analysis.
"I go to church because I want to. It's to kind of further my relationship with God, going to church grounds me," Josette Caumartin said Sunday.
The Winnipegger said she goes to mass each Saturday evening but thinks it's a personal choice whether Catholics join in the weekly attendance.
"It's a personal choice for me. I go because I want to. It's to work at my relationship with Christ. For others I feel that's their choice as well," she said. "I don't judge anyone. God doesn't so I try to work at being more like him."
That such large numbers of Catholics make a point of showing up at Christmas is a reminder that many continue to value their faith, according to Bibby's anaylsis.
While they may not be in church, 72 per cent of Catholics say they have spiritual needs. Just over 40 per cent pray privately at least once a week and 50 per cent said they see God as an important factor in determining what happens in their lives.
Cheryl Smith was raised and still identifies as Catholic, but said she doesn't regularly go to church. The Winnipegger is not alone — Bibby's research shows that 80 per cent of people raised in Catholic homes continue to identify as Catholic.
"I'm living it every day regardless if I go to church or not, hoping that I am a good person to people around me. I think that's more important for me than going to church on Sunday," she said.
According to canon law, Catholics must confess grave sins and receive communion at least once each year — at Easter.