“Keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.”—EPHESIANS 5:10.
1. What do we need to do to make sure that our worship pleases Jehovah, and why?
JESUS said: “True worshippers will worship the Father with spirit and truth, for indeed, the Father is looking for ones like these to worship him.” (John 4:23; 6:44) Each of us must “keep on making sure of what is acceptable to the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:10) This is not always easy. Satan tries to mislead us so that we will do things that displease Jehovah.—Revelation 12:9.
2. Explain what happened near Mount Sinai.
2 How does Satan try to mislead us? One way is by confusing us about what is right and what is wrong. Notice what happened to the nation of Israel when they were camped near Mount Sinai. Moses had gone up the mountain, and the people were waiting for him to return to the camp. Eventually, they got tired of waiting and asked Aaron to make a god for them. He made a golden idol in the shape of a calf. Then the people had a festival. They danced around the calf and bowed down to it. They believed that by bowing down to the calf, they were actually worshipping Jehovah. But the fact that the people viewed this event as “a festival to Jehovah” did not make it right. Jehovah viewed it as idolatry, and many of them died. (Exodus 32:1-6, 10, 28) What is the lesson for us? Don’t let yourself be fooled. “Touch nothing unclean,” and let Jehovah teach you what is right and what is wrong.—Isaiah 52:11; Ezekiel 44:23; Galatians 5:9.
3, 4. Why is it good to examine the origins of many popular celebrations?
3 When Jesus was on earth, he trained his apostles to set the example in clean worship. After his death, the apostles continued to teach Jehovah’s principles to new disciples. But after the apostles died, false teachers began to bring wrong ideas and pagan customs and celebrations into the congregation. They even renamed some of those pagan celebrations to make them appear Christian. (2 Thessalonians 2:7, 10; 2 John 6, 7) Many of these celebrations are still popular today, and they still promote false beliefs, even demonism.*—Revelation 18:2-4, 23.
4 Around the world today, celebrations and holidays are an important part of people’s lives. However, as you continue to learn how Jehovah views matters, you may see the need to adjust your thinking about certain celebrations. This may not be easy, but you can be sure that Jehovah will help you. Let’s examine the origins of some popular celebrations so that we can understand how Jehovah feels about them.
HOW DID CHRISTMAS BEGIN?
5. What evidence is there that Jesus was not born on December 25?
5 In many parts of the world, Christmas is celebrated on December 25, which most people think is the date of Jesus’ birth. The Bible does not tell us on what day or even in what month Jesus was born, but it does tell us something about the time of year. Luke wrote that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, “shepherds [were] living out of doors,” caring for their flocks. (Luke 2:8-11) In the month of December, Bethlehem is cold, rainy, and snowy, so shepherds would not have been staying outside with their flocks at night. What do we learn from this? Jesus was born when the weather was mild, not in December. Both the Bible and historical evidence indicate that he was born sometime during the months we now know as September and October.
6, 7. (a) How did many popular Christmas customs begin? (b) What should be our reason for giving gifts?
6 So how did Christmas begin? It came from pagan festivals, such as the Roman festival Saturnalia, a celebration dedicated to Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Encyclopedia Americana says: “Saturnalia, a Roman feast celebrated in mid-December, provided the model for many of the merry-making customs of Christmas. From this celebration, for example, were derived the elaborate feasting, the giving of gifts, and the burning of candles.” Also, the birthday of the Persian sun-god Mithra was celebrated on December 25.
7 However, most people who celebrate Christmas today are not thinking of its pagan origins. They simply look forward to Christmas as a time to be with family, enjoy good food, and give gifts. Of course, we love our family and friends, and Jehovah wants his servants to share with one another. As 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Jehovah does not want us to give to others only on special occasions. Jehovah’s people enjoy giving gifts and getting together with friends and family at any time of the year, without expecting anything in return. They give because they love others.—Luke 14:12-14.
8. Did the astrologers give gifts to Jesus when he was a newborn baby? Explain.
8 To support the idea of giving gifts at Christmas, many people say that three wise men brought gifts to the newborn baby Jesus in the stable. It is true that a group of men did visit Jesus and bring gifts. In Bible times, it was common to bring gifts to an important person. (1 Kings 10:1, 2, 10, 13) But did you know that the Bible says these men were astrologers, people who practiced magic and who did not worship Jehovah? Also, they did not visit Jesus when he was a newborn baby in a stable. They visited him later, when he was a “young child” living in a house.—Matthew 2:1, 2, 11.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT BIRTHDAYS?
9. What birthday celebrations are mentioned in the Bible?
9 The day that a baby is born is a happy one. (Psalm 127:3) But that does not mean that we should celebrate birthdays. Think about this: Only two birthday celebrations are mentioned in the Bible. One was the birthday of an Egyptian Pharaoh, and the other was the birthday of King Herod Antipas. (Read Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-29.) Neither of these rulers was a servant of Jehovah. In fact, we never read in the Bible that a worshipper of Jehovah celebrated a birthday.
10. How did the early Christians view birthday celebrations?
10 The World Book Encyclopedia says that the early Christians “considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” Such customs were based on false beliefs. For example, the ancient Greeks believed that every person was protected by a spirit that was present at his birth. And they thought that spirit was connected to a god born on the same date as the person. In addition to such pagan beliefs, birthdays are also connected with astrology and horoscopes.
11. How does Jehovah feel about our being generous?
11 Many people feel that their birthday is a special day on which they should be shown appreciation and love. But we can show love to our family and friends throughout the year, rather than just on one specific day. Jehovah wants us to be kind and generous all the time. (Read Acts 20:35.) We are grateful to him for the precious gift of life every day, not just on our birthday.—Psalm 8:3, 4; 36:9.
12. How can the day of our death be better than the day of our birth?
12 Ecclesiastes 7:1 says: “A good name is better than good oil, and the day of death is better than the day of birth.” How can the day of our death be better than the day of our birth? When we are born, we have not yet done anything with our life, either good or bad. But when we use our life to serve Jehovah and do good for others, we build “a good name,” or reputation, and Jehovah will remember us even after we have died. (Job 14:14, 15) Jehovah’s people do not celebrate their own birthday or that of Jesus. In fact, the only event Jesus commanded us to observe is the Memorial of his death.—Luke 22:17-20; Hebrews 1:3, 4.
THE ORIGINS OF EASTER
13, 14. What is the celebration of Easter connected to?
13 Many people believe that they are celebrating the resurrection of Jesus when they celebrate Easter. But actually, the celebration of Easter has been linked to Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon pagan goddess of the dawn and of spring. The Dictionary of Mythology explains that she was also a fertility goddess. Some Easter customs are connected with this. For example, eggs “have been prominent as symbols of new life and resurrection,” says the Encyclopædia Britannica. Also, rabbits have long been used as symbols of fertility in pagan worship. It is clear that Easter is not related to the resurrection of Jesus.
14 When Jehovah sees people mixing false religious customs with the resurrection of his Son, is he pleased? Of course not. (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18) In fact, Jehovah never asked us to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection.
WHAT IS HALLOWEEN?
15. How did Halloween begin?
15 Halloween, also called All Hallows’ Eve or the eve of All Saints’ Day, is connected with witches, goblins, and ghosts. This celebration is not new. On the full moon closest to November 1, the ancient Celts of Britain and Ireland celebrated the festival of Samhain. They believed that during this festival, spirits of the dead returned to earth. People put out food and drink so that the spirits would not harm them. When children today dress in costumes and go from house to house saying “Trick or treat,” they do not realize that they are imitating this ancient demonic custom.
WEDDINGS THAT PLEASE GOD
16, 17. What should we think about when planning a wedding?
16 A wedding is a happy occasion. Weddings are celebrated in many different ways around the world. People usually don’t think about where wedding customs come from, so they may not know that some customs come from pagan religious beliefs. But a Christian couple who are planning their wedding want to make sure that it will please Jehovah. If they learn about the origins of wedding customs, they will be able to make good decisions.—Mark 10:6-9.
17 Some wedding customs are believed to bring ‘good luck’ to the new couple. (Isaiah 65:11) For example, in some places people throw rice or something similar on the bride and groom. They believe that this will bring the couple children, happiness, and a long life and that it will protect them from evil. But Christians are careful to avoid any customs that are connected to false religion.—Read 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
18. What other Bible principles apply to weddings?
18 A Christian couple want their wedding to be a joyful and dignified occasion and to be enjoyable for everyone in attendance. Guests at a Christian wedding would not make speeches that are unkind, sexually suggestive, or disrespectful to the bride and groom or others. (Proverbs 26:18, 19; Luke 6:31; 10:27) A Christian wedding does not emphasize “the showy display of one’s means of life.” (1 John 2:16) If you are planning a wedding, make sure that you will be able to look back on it with happy memories.—See Endnote 28.
THE ORIGINS OF TOASTING
19, 20. What are the origins of toasting?
19 A common practice at weddings and other social occasions is toasting. During a toast, one person expresses good wishes while others raise their glasses. How should Christians view toasting?
20 The International Handbook on Alcohol and Culture says that toasting probably comes from an ancient pagan custom “in which a sacred liquid was offered to the gods.” This was done “in exchange for a wish, a prayer summarized in the words ‘long life!’ or ‘to your health!’” In ancient times, people used to raise their cups to ask their gods for a blessing. But that is not how Jehovah provides blessings.—John 14:6; 16:23.
“YOU WHO LOVE JEHOVAH, HATE WHAT IS BAD”
21. What other kinds of celebrations should Christians avoid?
21 When you are deciding whether or not to participate in any celebration, think about what attitude and behavior it promotes. For example, some celebrations and carnivals involve erotic dancing, uncontrolled drinking, and even immorality. Such celebrations may also promote gay and lesbian lifestyles or encourage nationalism. If we share in these kinds of celebrations, are we really hating what Jehovah hates?—Psalm 1:1, 2; 97:10; 119:37.
22. What can help a Christian decide if he will take part in a celebration?
22 Christians need to be very careful to avoid any celebrations that dishonor God. The apostle Paul wrote: “Whether you are eating or drinking or doing anything else, do all things for God’s glory.” (1 Corinthians 10:31; see Endnote 29.) Of course, not all celebrations are connected with immorality, false religion, or nationalism. If a celebration does not violate Bible principles, we need to make a personal decision about whether we will take part in it. We also want to consider how our decision will affect others.
HONOR JEHOVAH BY WHAT YOU SAY AND DO
23, 24. How can we explain our decision about certain celebrations to non-Witness family members?
23 You have probably stopped taking part in celebrations that dishonor Jehovah. But some of your family who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses might think that this means you don’t like them or want to be with them anymore. They may feel that holidays are the only time that the family gets together. So, what can you do? There are many ways you can reassure them that you love them and that they are important to you. (Proverbs 11:25; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13) You might invite them to spend time with you on other occasions.
24 If your relatives want to know why certain holidays are no longer acceptable to you, you can look up information in our publications and on jw.org that will help you to explain your reasons to them. Don’t give them the impression that you are trying to win an argument or force them to think as you do. Help your family see that you considered many factors and then made a personal decision. Stay calm, and “let your words always be gracious, seasoned with salt.”—Colossians 4:6.
25, 26. How can parents help their children to love Jehovah’s standards?
25 It is important that all of us clearly understand our personal reasons for not taking part in certain celebrations. (Hebrews 5:14) Our goal is to please Jehovah. And if we are parents, we must take time to help our children to understand and love Bible principles. When Jehovah becomes real to them, they too will want to please him.—Isaiah 48:17, 18; 1 Peter 3:15.
26 Jehovah is happy to see us doing all we can to worship him in a clean and honest way. (John 4:23) But many think that a person cannot really be honest in this dishonest world. Is that true? Let’s discuss this in the next chapter.
You can find information about specific celebrations in the Watch Tower Publications Index, in the Research Guide for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and on jw.org.