What Is the Bible’s View?
Are They Harmless Observances?
VALENTINE’S Day, May Day and Mother’s Day are among observances that most people would view as “harmless.” Few have ever wondered as to whether there would be any objection to a Christian’s commemorating them. But does the Bible have anything to say about this?
The Bible does not mention any of these observances by name. But it contains guiding principles that enable one to determine whether celebrations of this nature are all right for Christians. One such principle is the Bible teaching of complete separation from customs that are contrary to true worship.
In his law to the nation of Israel, Jehovah God declared: “You must not mention the name of other gods. It should not be heard upon your mouth.” (Ex. 23:13) This meant that the Israelites were not to refer to false gods with feelings of awe or in a way that would credit them with any existence or power. They were to regard such false gods with contempt, as valueless, shameful, detestable and disgusting.—Ps. 96:5; Jer. 11:13; Ezek. 16:36; 37:23.
As for any of the religious appendages associated with the false worship of the Canaanites, the Israelites were instructed: “Their altars you should pull down, and their sacred pillars you should break down, and their sacred poles you should cut down, and their graven images you should burn with fire. For you are a holy people to Jehovah your God.”—Deut. 7:5, 6.
In view of such commands, Israelites who wanted to be faithful to God would obviously never have adopted the religious festivals of the Canaanites and begun celebrating them under new names. That would have meant losing their “holy,” clean or pure standing before their God, Jehovah. Just as people today would not consider a shirt with a noticeable spot as clean and appropriate for formal attire, so Jehovah God does not view as suitable the practice of anything contaminated by false worship. He insists on exclusive devotion. (Ezek. 5:13) To the Israelites he declared: “I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.”—Ex. 20:5.
That Jehovah God tolerates no mixing of idolatrous practices with true worship is obvious from his dealings with the Israelites. Take the case of the golden calf in the wilderness. When the Israelites had Aaron make it for them, they did not do so with the thought of taking up the worship of an Egyptian deity. They were simply taking over an Egyptian religious practice that prominently associated deities with cows, bulls and other animals. This is evident from the fact that the religious festival held in connection with the golden calf was not intended to honor an Egyptian god but was called a “festival to Jehovah.” (Ex. 32:5) But this did not make it right. Jehovah God severely punished the Israelites for unfaithfulness.—Ex. 32:28-35.
The unchangeable God, Jehovah, is no more tolerant of idolatrous practices today than he was in the past. (Mal. 3:5, 6) The Christian apostle Paul reminded fellow believers: “What fellowship do righteousness and lawlessness have? Or what sharing does light have with darkness? Further, what harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what portion does a faithful person have with an unbeliever? And what agreement does God’s temple have with idols? For we are a temple of a living God; just as God said: ‘I shall reside among them and walk among them, and I shall be their God, and they will be my people.’ ‘“Therefore get out from among them, and separate yourselves,” says Jehovah, “and quit touching the unclean thing.”’”—2 Cor. 6:14-17.
That being the case, first-century Christians certainly could not have shared in festivities honoring false gods and goddesses. The facts of history prove that they did not do so.
This gives rise to the question, Would the early Christians have shunned the observance of Valentine’s Day, May Day or Mother’s Day, or would they have regarded such observances as harmless? Well, what is the origin of these special days?
Concerning Valentine’s Day, The World Book Encyclopedia (1973 edition) notes:
“Valentine’s Day comes on the feast day of two different Christian martyrs named Valentine. But the customs connected with the day have nothing to do with the lives of the saints. They probably come from an ancient Roman festival called Lupercalia which took place every February 15. The festival honored Juno, the Roman goddess of women and marriage, and Pan, the god of nature.”
But how did a festival in honor of false deities become a so-called Christian observance? The same reference work continues:
“After the spread of Christianity, churchmen tried to give Christian meaning to the pagan festival. In 496, Pope Gelasius changed the Lupercalia festival of February 15 to Saint Valentine’s Day on February 14. But the sentimental meaning of the old festival has remained to the present time.”
Of May Day, this Encyclopedia observes: “The English and other peoples whom the Romans conquered developed their May Day festivals from the Floralia.” And whom did that festival honor? It was held in honor of Flora, the goddess of flowers.
But what of Mother’s Day? ‘Surely it does not have roots in ancient paganism,’ someone may say. ‘Does not the Bible command children to “honor their father and mother”?’ Yes, the Bible does command children to honor, obey and respect their parents. (Eph. 6:1, 2) But nowhere does it advocate the commemoration of a special ‘Mother’s Day.’ On the origin of such observance, the Encyclopædia Britannica (1959 edition) states:
“A festival derived from the custom of mother worship in ancient Greece. Formal mother worship, with ceremonies to Cybele, or Rhea, the Great Mother of the Gods, were performed on the Ides of March throughout Asia Minor.”
Regarding the adoption of Mother’s Day in the United States, the New York Times of May 10, 1953, reported:
“In spite of the popularity of Cybele, . . . and sporadic occasions honoring mothers during the Middle Ages, it was not until 1914 that the proper combination of sentimentality, idealistic promotion and hard business sense impelled the United States Congress to designate the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.”
In view of the false religious background of Valentine’s Day, May Day and Mother’s Day, is it not clear that Christians in the first century would not have commemorated these days? So, then, is it not right to shun such observances today and thus obey the Bible’s command to “quit touching the unclean thing”?
“Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.”—1 Cor. 10:31.