Most Christians around the world enjoy the celebration of the birth of Christ each year on December 25. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW’s), along with members of various sects and cults, and even some evangelical Christians avoid the celebration of the Christmas holiday. Generally, the reasons for refusing to avoid center on the facts that Jesus was almost certainly not born on December 25 and that a pagan holiday, the Saturnalia, was celebrated by the Roman Empire on that day.
Nobody who is aware of the facts is claiming that Jesus was actually born on December 25. We know that the feast was established on the date of a pagan winter solstice festival. The church did this in order to counter the pagan festival with one of its own, and also in hopes of attracting pagans into the church. The end result is that the pagan festival was effectively wiped out – how many people do you know who celebrate Saturnalia these days? The main question is, what are you celebrating on December 25? If you are honoring the sun for coming back after the solstice, then you are not celebrating a Christian festival. However, if you are honoring the birth of the Son of God into the world to rescue mankind from sin and death, then you are engaging in a Christian celebration, and there is no condemnation for that in Scripture. The fact that the celebration was located on the date of a former pagan festival isn’t really relevant – there were hundreds of different pagan festivals, and it would be impossible to find ANY day of the year to celebrate Christ’s birth that didn’t coincide with one of them. Since we don’t know the exact date of Christ’s birth, any date chosen could be identified with some pagan holiday or other.
The days of the week and months of the year have pagan origins, too, as do celebrating wedding anniversaries, sending flowers to funerals, having pinatas at children’s parties and wearing wedding rings – yet JW’s do all of those things. Unfortunately, the bottom line for JW’s is, not what the Bible itself says, but what the Watchtower Society tells them the Bible means. Some formerly pagan things are OK and others are to be avoided, and the organization alone dictates which are which. For some things, pagan origins mean they are inappropriate for Christians, and for other pagan things, the origins are unimportant; it’s what they mean NOW that matters. The organization decides which argument applies in each case. If the organization decided tomorrow that celebrating Christmas was acceptable, the vast majority of JW’s would be in line at the mall right behind you doing their shopping.
JW’s will quickly point out that there is no command in the Bible to celebrate Christ’s birth, but they forget to mention that there is also no command NOT to celebrate it. The Jews of Jesus’ day celebrated both Purim and Hanukkah (Feast of Dedication), neither of which was Biblically commanded, yet they are never criticized for doing so. In fact, John 10:22, 23 states that Jesus Himself was in Jerusalem at the time of the Feast of Dedication, walking in the Temple area – the strong implication seems to be that He was there for the celebration.
Don’t let all the JW arguments derived from human reasoning distract you from the simple Scriptural truth at Romans 14:4-6: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special does so to the Lord. He who eats meat eats to the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who abstains, does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.” As long as we are celebrating the day to honor the Lord, there is no objection from a Scriptural standpoint. By condemning those who choose to celebrate, JW’s and others are really ‘judging someone else’s servant’ and thus are the ones actually violating the Word of God.
For a bit more information on this topic, you might want to listen to a radio program audio file found at http://www.towertotruth.net/Audiofiles/christmas.m3u . It runs about 15 minutes.