Questions From Readers
● In my husband’s family it is customary for all the children and grandchildren to gather at his parents’ home for a large meal on December 25. He realizes that, as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I do not celebrate Christmas. But what about going to the meal?
You personally will have to decide whether that would be best in your case. Here are some aspects of the matter that you may want to consider.
In many places, the fact that most persons do not have to work on certain holidays means that these are convenient times for families to get together. Even Christian relatives and friends have used such a day for a picnic or a meal, though they do not celebrate the religious holiday. This freedom from secular work may be one reason behind the gathering of your husband’s family on December 25. But if most of the relatives celebrate Christmas, the gathering may also be so that they can exchange Christmas greetings and gifts.
Jehovah’s Witnesses have explained that Jesus’ followers were not instructed to commemorate his birth, that he was not born on December 25 and that this date was adopted from a pagan Roman celebration. (1 Cor. 11:23-26) Thus, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas, keeping in mind Jesus’ words: “God is a Spirit, and those worshiping him must worship with spirit and truth.”—John 4:24.
Those of your husband’s relatives who do not agree with your Bible-based beliefs may feel free to celebrate Christmas. In fairness, though, they should recognize your freedom to refrain. If you were at the family meal and refrained from sharing in Christmas greetings, exchanging gifts or joining in other holiday activities, would they be embarrassed or upset? This would be something for you and your husband to discuss beforehand. As a Christian wife, you undoubtedly have respect for his headship, and that apparently extends to matters such as where the family will eat. By your respectfully and mildly presenting your feelings, manifesting your reasonableness, he may well be moved to see if a satisfactory solution can be found.—Phil. 4:5; Col. 3:18.
Your husband might urge you to accompany him, suggesting that you view it as a normal meal without your sharing in any of the holiday aspects. That would be a possibility, for an individual could be present where others are carrying on religious activities without personally engaging in these. (Compare 2 Kings 5:17-19.) And the Bible does show that just because someone else imagines certain food to have a special meaning, that does not rule out the Christian’s eating it as normal food. (1 Cor. 8:8; 1 Tim. 4:4) In making that point, though, the apostle Paul emphasized the value of considering the consciences of others, seeking to avoid creating a wrong impression that might lead to stumbling.—1 Cor. 10:23-30.
If you did go to the family gathering and meal on December 25, would your relatives conclude that you were celebrating Christmas along with them? Or, perhaps because of what they have learned about your beliefs and what they would observe as to your conduct at the gathering, would they recognize that your presence then for association and a family meal has no religious meaning for you? You are the best one to evaluate the situation and the attitudes involved, and you should make a decision that you feel is wise, Christian and in accord with your Bible-trained conscience.
● On my job all employees are given a Christmas bonus. Since I do not believe in Christmas, should I refuse the bonus?
That depends on what the bonus actually signifies and how accepting it would be viewed.
As we have often shown, Christmas and many other holidays of Christendom are not based on the facts of the Bible. Actually, they are drawn from non-Christian worship.a The Bible commands Christians to keep only one religious observance, the yearly anniversary of Christ’s death.—Luke 22:19, 20.
Would accepting a “Christmas bonus” mean that one is sharing in that holiday? Perhaps not. It may be that the bonus is not at all understood as meaning that each recipient is celebrating Christmas. The employer may simply choose to give all his workers a share of the company’s profits at the year’s end and when many of them would especially appreciate a lump sum to use as they desire. The bonus may be an evidence of gratitude for services rendered all year long, as well as a stimulus to continued good work and smooth employer-employee relations. The employer may give it to all employees, regardless of whether some, such as Jews, Moslems or others, do not believe in Christmas. So the mere timing of the gift or the name that has come to be used for it does not necessarily rule out its acceptance by one of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Also, even if the giver of a gift has a religious belief as a reason for its timing, that does not mean that the recipient is thought to share the religious view. Often a fellow worker or relative will tell one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, ‘I know that you do not celebrate Christmas (or, some other holiday), but I still want you to have this as a gift from me.’ If the Christian’s conscience would be at rest in accepting the gift, he might choose to take it and express thanks without any reference to the holiday. (Acts 23:1) A similar course has been followed by many a Christian when offered a gift by someone who does not know of his belief. Perhaps at another time, when there will be less likelihood of causing offense, the Christian can tactfully mention that he does not celebrate that religious holiday and can kindly, mildly explain that this is why he himself did not give any holiday gift.—1 Pet. 3:15.
But if a gift is given with the clear intent of showing that the Christian is not firm in his beliefs or will compromise for gain, then definitely it is best to decline. It is Jehovah God that Christians must worship. To him alone we render sacred service.—Matt. 4:8-10.