'Merry Christmas' photo helps Carson top Trump on Facebook
© Ben Carson

A simple “Merry Christmas” message from Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson posted on Facebook Friday evening has gone viral, amassing hundreds of thousands of “likes” in a few short hours.

“Not afraid to say Merry Christmas!” Carson exclaims in a caption beside a photo of the retired neurosurgeon holding a sign bearing the traditional seasonal greeting.

Nearly half a million Facebook users have liked the post as of 11:30 p.m. — just 7 hours after the photo went live on Carson’s page.

The leading GOP candidate achieved a far more impressive milestone Friday night, thanks in large parge to the viral photo. With 5 million followers, Carson has officially surpassed front-runner Donald Trump to become the most popular presidential candidate on Facebook.