As mentioned in a previous post, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas. So, while most of their neighbors are ho-ho-ho-ing it up, what are JWs doing? It depends.
Most JWs will treat the day like any other day in the year. Some might work that day, giving a coworker the day off. I used to do that all the time when I worked at a hospital. We’d get a big shift differential on a holiday, so it paid off nicely.
Those who don’t have the option of working on that day might participate in the field ministry. Just before every holiday, and Christmas in particular, the Watchtower Society sends everyone on a guilt trip, reminding them that they should be spending every spare moment in the field ministry, especially on days when the public’s mindset might be more religious.
My father always yielded to the pressure and dragged us out in the ministry on Christmas day. Since we lived in a very cold climate, we’d be tromping around, freezing our patooties off, knocking on doors just when people were enjoying a special breakfast or opening presents around the tree. These poor souls opened the door, sending an arctic blast into the living room, and we could see pajama-clad family members inside, wrapping paper all over the floor. I would groan inwardly but give my best JW smile to the understandably irritated householder whose reaction usually cut the visit short. Then, on to bother the next family, and all the time I’m wondering why are we torturing ourselves and these people? As an adult I avoided holiday witnessing as often as possible, praying for a blizzard.
There was one Christmas when some friends of ours invited my ex-husband and me to accompany them on a visit to Disney World in Florida. We jumped at the chance, even though it meant camping for a few nights. Would you believe it, one member of our party was such a zealot that she guilted us into not only a meeting at the local congregation, but also field service? I remember thinking, “Dadblast it all! I’m on vacation!” Oh, wait, JWs never take a vacation from serving Jehovah. Silly me. We gamely traipsed around a central Florida neighborhood for a couple of hours one afternoon before resuming our tryst with Mickey Mouse and the gang.
Some JWs suffer acutely from another type of guilt at Christmastime. They feel that their children are being deprived of the fun that other children are having, so they kind of fudge it a bit. They’ll have a “special day” celebration, which is essentially Christmas without the tree or decorations. In order to fool themselves into believing that they’re not being unfaithful to God by their actions, they might hold the “special day” on December 26. Way to find a loophole, people!
Since my family didn’t join the cult until I was 12 I had plenty of memories of Christmas; the family closeness, the aroma of balsam fir, singing “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, and brightly wrapped presents clustered under the tree. So, when we gave up Christmas I understood the reason, but I couldn’t help but feel nostalgic on Christmas Eve, especially if attending a meeting to attend took us out that night, seeing the twinkling lights on other people’s houses, perhaps catching a glimpse of a decorated tree through a living room window as we made our way home. I would try to content myself with the knowledge that by eschewing Christmas I was pleasing Jehovah, but in my heart I couldn’t really accept that the holiday was evil.
Even now that I am no longer a Witness I still feel nostalgic for those long-ago Christmases when my brother and I would crank our parents out of bed at some ungodly hour and race downstairs to attack the tree. Mom always made her special Hungarian nut bread, so we had a yummy breakfast. Later, we would journey to Grandma’s or another relative’s house to enjoy Christmas dinner with the family. The whole ritual made me feel safe and loved. Now, what’s wrong with that?
I hope all of my readers have a wonderful holiday with their family and friends. Merry Christmas!