As many people know, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or any national holiday (Independence Day, Thanksgiving), and they don’t celebrate birthdays.
Jehovah’s Witnesses can celebrate wedding anniversaries, they are allowed wedding showers and baby showers, and may have a well-managed reception after a wedding. In the past few years, I’ve noticed that they also have graduation parties for the kids, but this was unheard of when I was growing up as a JW. I personally have never celebrated a Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, or a birthday of any sort.
The reasoning for this on the part of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that many holidays have pagan and unchristian origins. You can do a little research yourself and see that Christmas and Easter are both mixtures of paganism and some Christian beliefs; even secular historians will say that Jesus was probably not born on December 25. Jehovah’s Witnesses also reason that Jesus did not tell them to celebrate his birthday, but to remember his death.
This post is not meant to argue with their beliefs or reasons for why they don’t celebrate these holidays, as I would never do that with any religion. I would never tell a Jewish person that their kids are missing out because they don’t celebrate Christmas, or tell a Christian parent that they should observe Hanukkah. I respect each religion for what they do and do not observe, and understand why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate many of these holidays.
The problem, however, is that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t really celebrate anything, and they have few, if any, festivities throughout the year. Jews may not celebrate Christmas, but they have Hanukkah and they celebrate birthdays, Halloween, and so forth. A staunch atheist may not celebrate Christmas or Easter, but will probably celebrate birthdays, Halloween, New Year’s Eve, and so on.
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate any of these things, and they don’t have their own religious holidays either. As a JW child, your only chance at any type of party is the occasional wedding, which means dressing up in your uncomfortable Sunday clothes, sitting through a long sermon about marriage, then some boring party with grownup dancing. As an adult, once you have your small and cheap wedding reception and a baby shower or two, your days of fun are over! For the women like me who didn’t get married or have children, there was no such thing as festivities in our honor, at all, ever.
If you think it’s difficult for children to give up holidays and birthdays, you would be absolutely right. It’s even difficult for adults, as parties and festivities break up the monotony of everyday life and give you something to look forward to. They also bring families together and build traditions.
“Set Free” From What?
Jehovah’s Witnesses have often said in their publications that not being obligated to observe holidays like Christmas can actually be very freeing. Note these quotes, from the December 2010 Awake magazine:
“Our family has been set free from the problems associated with excess eating and drinking and the cost of gifts we could not afford,” says Oscar.
“I love giving and receiving gifts,” writes Elfie. “But I don’t like the kind of giving that is done under pressure. When our family stopped celebrating Christmas, it felt like a vacation!”
Peter writes: “When I was celebrating Christmas, I borrowed heavily in order to purchase gifts and pay for lavish meals. Of course, all this meant that I had to work overtime, which took me away from my family. How thrilled I was to be set free from all that!”
Let me first of all digress and simply ask if these quotes sound real to anyone. How many people would use the phrase, “problems associated with excess eating,” or, “how thrilled I was to be set free”?
That thought aside, not feeling obligated to give lavish gifts and overspend during the holidays can be very freeing, I wouldn’t disagree with that. However, if someone is overspending and borrowing to “pay for lavish meals” and is indulging in “excess eating and drinking,” whose fault is that? No one is forced to do anything they don’t want to do for the holidays; many people manage to observe them without going into debt or acting like pigs.
Jehovah’s Witnesses also claim in their magazines and publications that they don’t need holidays and birthdays, as they can give gifts out of love and “at any time of the year.” Yes, they absolutely can do this, but in my experience, they absolutely do not do this, at all, ever. Growing up, and as an adult, in the religion, I never once saw a parent give their child a gift for any reason or at any time, ever, other than for their wedding or new baby. As said, some are now having small graduation parties for kids, but this is a relatively new occurrence. Parties for kids were few and far between when I was in the religion, and at most, might have been a few hours doing crafts and then having a slice of cake. What fun!
While some might enjoy the idea of not being obligated to give gifts, rather than being “set free” from just overspending and giving gifts they couldn’t afford, the Jehovah’s Witnesses I know were “set free” from ever having to host parties, buy gifts, or make life fun for their children in any way. Children have all these holidays and celebrations taken from them, but are never compensated with any type of festivity, or gift, or party, or fun of any sort.
Yes, It Does Damage
A JW parent might shrug off this information by reasoning that parties and holidays and gifts are not needed in a child’s life, but this overall lack of gift-giving and festivities can hurt children who are growing up as Jehovah’s Witnesses. Children aren’t stupid; they see other children getting gifts and fun parties from their parents, and then see their own parents, who are all too happy to be stingy and miserly and who never give them anything other than their basic necessities. What are children supposed to think about how their parents feel about them?
Children see fun holidays and celebrations and festivities enjoyed by other kids at school, and then see their own religion, which not only takes these things away, but which then involves constant dull meetings and assemblies, sermons, preaching work, dressing up, home bible studies on top of weekly meetings at the Kingdom Hall, and always being told what you’re doing wrong. JW parents really think this isn’t damaging to children? What impression does this leave on children as to what type of personality Jehovah has? What type of life does this give a child?
They, too, read the claims JWs make about giving gifts “at anytime of the year,” and can see that these are just hollow words. Might they start to question the false front that JWs put on, when it comes to statements made in their publications versus the reality of their everyday life?
I’m not telling Jehovah’s Witnesses what they should and should not celebrate, but I would ask how they think their children feel when they take away so much from them, without giving anything in return. You can say all the words you want; you can claim that Jehovah is a happy god and that you serve him with rejoicing and that you give gifts all the time, but what about your actions? Yes, you can create happiness and fun and festivities for your children and give them gifts at anytime, but do you? Do you really make your children happy with gifts and fun times and festivities, or do you just make them victims of your religion by taking away anything and everything that might make their lives more enjoyable, as if the more miserable you are, the better Witness you are?
And are these too just more lies printed in your magazines to make outsiders think your families and your religion are much more loving than they really are? I would go with the latter choice myself.
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