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Holidays and Birthdays Part One

“No more laughing, no more fun.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses are largely regarded as wet blankets when it comes to holidays because they don’t join in the celebration.  Relatives, friends, and coworkers will use every conceivable argument in an attempt to coax a JW into a party mood, but they won’t budge.  Their reasons for being the ultimate party poopers vary by holiday and are often very odd.  The basic premise of their objections is, essentially, “If it ain’t in the Bible we ain’t doin’ it.”

Let’s move through the calendar year and find a reason for JWs not to participate in each holiday.

New Year’s Day:  The actual celebration is the night before, but the official holiday is January 1, so we’ll start here.

The reasoning on this one is flabby at best.  It begins with the date itself, January 1.  Julius Caesar changed the date of the new year from mid-March to January 1 because the month was already dedicated to Janus, the god of new beginnings.  So there’s a false god involved.  Oh no!

Another reason is that the celebrations involved (depending on your location) are often of pagan origin, such as eating certain foods.

Then there’s the big tuna:  Revelry, drunkenness, and other debauchery mark the celebration.  JWs adhere to a rigid code of conduct that excludes such naughtiness.

I suspect that a lot of them stay up and watch the ball drop anyway, but they won’t admit it.

Martin Luther King’s Birthday:  This holiday honors a man, a human, instead of God.

St. Valentine’s Day:  Aside from its association with a Catholic saint, there’s the origin of the holiday.  It is thought to be the result of an effort to Christianize a pagan Roman holiday called “Lupercalia,” a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus the god of agriculture.   Then there’s that troublesome symbol of the holiday, Cupid (or Eros), the god of romantic love.  Good heavens, a sex god!  Three reasons for JWs to recoil in horror at participation in the holiday.

Presidents’ Day:  See MLK’s Birthday.

St. Patrick’s Day:   Another Catholic saint.  More drunkenness.  And a vague association with the Druids.

Easter:  Hoo boy!  This holiday is one huge fertility rite.  The symbolism alone clues you in – bunnies and eggs.  The name of the holiday itself comes from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eastre, which is bad enough, but the main reason they don’t participate is biblical.  There are more pagan associations, but there’s no need to list them exhaustively.

An assiduous reading of the biblical passages related to the Last Supper shows that Jesus told his disciples to commemorate his death, “Keep doing this in remembrance of me.”  Most Christian churches perform this rite at varying intervals, some daily, in the form of communion or mass.   JWs notice that he never once commanded his disciples to celebrate his resurrection, which is the significance attached to the holiday Easter.  Most Christians find commemorating a death to be more than a bit odd, since the resurrection was a much happier event and better suited for a celebration, even without the fertility symbols.  Not JWs.

Instead, they gather at their Kingdom Halls on the night of Jesus’ death (Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar, which may or may not coincide with Passover) and listen to a Bible talk that is intended to explain the event and inform the uninitiated that the goodies sitting on a table on the platform are not for them. Then they will re-enact, in a way, the salient portion of the Last Supper, the passing of the bread and wine.

This last part is the white-knuckle portion of the proceedings.  The attendants will stand, one at each end of a row, and literally pass the “emblems” to the first person, who passes to the next and so on until the end of the row.

I sat through 33 of these things and every time my palms would sweat, worrying that I would spill the wine or that the unleavened bread would cascade off the plate as I passed it.  I usually wore a dark-colored dress, just in case.  And I always hoped I wouldn’t have to sit beside a child who might yank the goblet out of my hands and leave a lasting memory of the occasion on the kingdom hall carpet.  I always heaved a sigh of relief once that part of the show was over.

The Memorial of Christ’s Death, as they call it, is the most important event of the year for JWs, and they will invite any- and everybody to join them.  It’s also a sort of holy day of obligation for not-so-enthusiastic JWs.  If you don’t show up for the Memorial you are a very, very bad person.

Mother’s Day/Father’s Day:  Oh, honey, this is one controversial holiday if your mama isn’t a JW but you are.

Despite the benign appearance, Mother’s Day is not a holiday for True Christians.  Again, flabby reasoning at best.

Mother’s Day, according to the Watchtower Society, has its roots in mother worship.  ‘Nuff said.

Another reason, and this includes Father’s Day, is that Christian children are commanded to honor their parents every day, not just on one special day a year.

So why not make Mama happy and send her some flowers?  Remember – “If it ain’t in the Bible, we ain’t doin’ it.”

Memorial Day:  Commemorates the war dead.  JWs do not participate in the military or war and are politically neutral.  They don’t do political holidays.

Independence Day:  Since JWs are politically neutral they do not observe this holiday.  They won’t go to the parade or watch the fireworks.  Such a bummer.

Labor Day:  This one isn’t really “celebrated” in the U.S., but it’s a nice day off at the end of the summer.  JWs will enjoy picnics and barbecues with family and friends just like anyone else.

Next week:  The Queen Mother of “evil” holidays and birthdays.


9 responses »

  1. “The name of the holiday itself comes from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess, Eastre.”
    This is a curious argument since the earliest name of the festival comes from the Hebrew for Passover. So if an argument along these lines is translated into a language which uses the older name, French for example, it won’t make a lot of sense.

    So. What is the origin of Easter? translates into French as:
    Quelle est l’origine de Paques?

    Anyone have an English and a French Watchtower to compare on this one?

  2. William Roberts

    Another Tuesday, Sally. An excuse to hop out of bed, grab a cup of coffee and enjoy your great sense of humor! Thanks!

  3. Can’t wait to know what is the “queen mother” of evil holidays…halloween?
    Thanks for the education too. Never heard of the Goddess “Eastre” ! It’s all very interesting.

  4. Soooo true. To this day I do not know when my parents were born, but darned if I don’t know their anniversary…..the only celebration we ever had every year.

  5. So many of my wonderful family traditions and memories were celebrated around the holidays. I can’t imagine a childhood without them.

  6. To this day, I struggle to care about these holidays because of my childhood.

    Last weekend it was my birthday and for a moment upon waking, I fell into deep despair, knowing that out of my entire family, only my brother and mother would be sending me birthday wishes. My father doesn’t even remember the date of my birth. Yeah, thanks.

    It’s Halloween tomorrow and everything about it thoroughly entertains me, but I’m not excited. Nor am I excited for Christmas or any other holiday for that matter. The JWs took all that joy away from me and now, creeping through the early years of adulthood, I hesitate to try to regain those feelings that I missed out on for so many years.

  7. When I started studying I decided that I didn’t care about this because I never cared for Christmas and am not big on birthdays either. But looking at the whole list- there are so many holidays I enjoy. I just struggle with the “gift” holidays because it just feels like the gifts is what it’s all about and Christmas is so stressful, But I would have very much missed the rest, especially my favorite holiday Thanksgiving, if I had become a witness.

  8. Interesting to hear someone’s honest comment about the Memorial. I always found it a nervous event as well, and sometimes a petty one among JWs. One friends was obsessed with who got new outfits for the evening, even commenting “I notice the really spiritual sisters didn’t buy something new.” One year I was sitting against the wall and when the person next to me offered me the emblems and I just held up my hand to say no, he could have fainted, like how could I not want to at least touch the plate and cup. Well, aren’t we supposed to just be observers? Why do I need to touch anything if it’s not for me? Yet another excuse to be self-righteous.


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