By Alice Mannette/staff
To Jehovah's Witnesses, every day is special. Although a Christian religion, those who study "the truth," do not celebrate birthdays, New Year's or Christmas.
"Nobody really knows the date of Jesus' birth," said Richard Henkel, an elder with the church. "We try to keep things in harmony back in the way that Christians did through the ages. Most of the holidays come from the pagans.
Because the specific holidays are not mentioned in the Bible, people who follow the faith do not participate in holidays, Christian or secular.
"We're trying to purify our religion," Henkel explained. Because many of the holidays have been intermeshed with polytheistic observances, Jehovah's Witnesses avoid them completely. They say that they practice a strict adherence to the Bible's word. "The scriptures tell us not to mix the clean with the unclean."
For some, like Philip Kravitz, following his faith has been easy. A third generation Witness, Kravitz said that he didn't feel that he missed out by not celebrating the holidays. Because of his family's strong bonds and passion for their faith, Kravitz felt impassioned at an early age.
"If you really do appreciate the reason and the motivating force, it's easy," he said.
Kravitz, along with his wife and fellow Witness, Kelly, are raising their four children in the faith.
His step-son, Hunter McDaniel, 14, is impassioned about his religion. He, like his step-father, does not feel that he is missing out on celebrations.
"Mostly I feel sorry for the other ones because basically that's the only time they get to spend time together. We're always together," he said.
Hunter is well versed in the Bible, reading a portion of it each day. "The Bible has principles which we follow." he said.
Leteta Harris, who converted more than 30 years ago after being approached by pioneers at her front door, said that having her children remain in the faith was difficult.
"The teachers wanted to make them feel as if they were being deprived," she said. "I would tell them 'instead of picking just one day to celebrate, we can do that any day and every day.'"
Harris would give her children presents or treats when the time felt right. She would teach them Bible passages and explain how the holidays came about.
"Even in secular magazines we found that the origin of the different holidays were pagan — man-made traditions," Harris explained. Yet after her offspring's strong foundation, only one has stayed with the faith. Most rebelled in their teens or when they first left home. "Materialism has taken them. Birthday celebrations, they get a taste of it and that's it."
Kravitz, whose brother and sister fell away from the faith, said that once children hit their teens, the pressures to conform are sometimes stronger than one's faith.
"It can be challenging, especially for teenagers," he said.
Along with not celebrating holidays, Jehovah's Witnesses do not display religious symbols, obtain blood transfusions or participate in secular government.
They also feel obliged to share their message with others by going door to door and preaching about God, whom they call Jehovah.
"We do not criticize other people for celebrating. We do not tell them that we shouldn't do it," Henkel said. "We teach from the Bible. Jesus is the critical key to everything."
Originally published December 2, 2005
BRENDA LEE'S RESPONSE:
I'd like to share something with you something you may not know about Jehovah's Witnesses (JWs).
Did you know that they used to celebrate Christmas, which they now claim is pagan?
In their Dec 1, 1904, Watchtower, they write, "Even though Christmas is not the real anniversary of our Lord's birth...it is not necessary for us to quibble particularly about the date. We may as well join with the civilized world in celebrating the grand event on the day which the majority celebrate "Christmas day.""
Then in their Dec. 15, 1983, Watchtower, they changed their tune, "We all need to face up to the fact that Christmas and its music are not from Jehovah, the God of truth. Then what is their source? Reason should suggest that they are from someone whose sole aim now is to mislead as many people as possible. The Bible tells us that this is the goal of Satan the Devil..."
Why is the leadership being so hypocritical? For instance, why are wedding rings acceptable to Jehovah’s Witnesses when they too have a pagan origin? Why do most of the followers have no idea that even former Governing Body members (the elite in the organization) used to celebrate Christmas? Why do they now coldly shun forever any JW family member who chooses to celebrate a holiday--never speaking to them again? After all, aren't they just following the organization's original directives?! (Those elite ones would have been excommunicated had they lived today!) The Watchtower leadership feeds the public this propaganda and never discloses the truth about their "roots" because they want to keep their membership uneducated.
As organizer of the ex-JW Meetup group and now author of a new book which is soon-to-be-released, I can tell you that I grew up as a Jehovah's Witness child and HATED it. I write about my experiences in my book, Out of the Cocoon: A Young Woman's Courageous Flight from the Grip of a Religious Cult. After my mother sat me down and informed me, a nine year old child, that we would never celebrate any holidays or birthdays again, everyone in the world rejoiced that Christmas while I wept. I can’t begin to tell you how unhappy I was--to the point of being suicidal and homicidal--and how many genuinely miserable JW children I saw around me. The responses you hear from JWs when answering why they don't celebrate Christmas are preprogrammed responses. I heard these same responses come out of my mother's mouth 30 years ago!
Jehovah's Witnesses seek to fool the rest of the world into believing that they are happy, united, and divinely guided by "The Truth" and that everyone else is doomed to destruction because of their false beliefs. But their beliefs are not Bible based. Did you know that Colossians 2:16 says "Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day"? So true Christians do not automatically judge holidays (including Christmas) negatively. Also, December 27 was the date of the first Jewish festival of Hannukah (also spelled Channukah). In fact, John 10:22 says in the winter Christ, himself a Jewish rabbi, was at the Feast of Dedication, another term for the same religious festival. Luke 2:6 says angels celebrated Christ's birth. For true Christians, it is definitely a Christian celebration, not a pagan ritual.
As a journalist, it is your responsibility and privilege to be able to help educate. I hope you will do so here. Your readers deserve to know the truth about their religion. Then, perhaps they would have a better understanding of the Watchtower organization that they literally live and die by. Please consider publishing this information for them.