A Question about Religious Holidays

I received a question concerning what the Bible says about celebrating holidays like Easter and Christmas, where Christ’s life is celebrated or acknowledged in some way. I think this is a very good subject for all followers of Christ to give diligent consideration to, as our society is infatuated with acknowledging Jesus on these holidays by attending a special church service. But it’s important to note that every conceivable religious holiday has no roots in the new testament church. The word of God gives no specific instructions for observing Easter or Christmas, though it is inferred to not participate in such religious observations because these two holidays were observed in Jesus’ day as wicked services to pagan idols (more details on this later). The only “holidays” (so to speak) that are directly spoken against observing are the feasts and special days under the old covenant (such as the Passover, the Feast of Tabernacles, and all sabbaths). These were nailed to the cross along with the rest of the old covenant (Colossians 2:14-17). Now, let’s take a closer look at Easter and Christmas.

Both Easter and Christmas are very old celebrations that someone put a new label on many years ago, yet what remains underneath the label are the same traditions. The Greeks had Saturnalia at the winter solstice, which was the celebration of the birth of the sun God. The festivities of this event included evergreen trees and wreaths, decorations of red (symbolic of the sun) and green (symbolic of new life), and exchanging of gifts. Festive gatherings included exchanging gifts in decorated boxes, singing carols from house to house, playing games, and feasting. The themed food included blood pudding and gingerbread men (both of which symbolized human sacrifices to the sun god). Neither Jesus, his apostles, nor the new testament church would engage in the festivities of Saturnalia. But Christians who strayed from the Scriptures began to adopt the practice about 400 years after Christ. They found that they could enjoy the same festivities as the idolaters, justifying their actions by rebranding Saturnalia as Christ-Mass.

Easter comes from the name “Eastre” who was the Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring. Eastre’s symbol was the bunny, which is a symbol of fertility. But Easter is probably even older than that, as the Babylonians had Ishtar (pronounced like Easter) as their goddess of fertility and spring. We can see where the terminology comes from, and where the Easter bunny originated, but there was more to the ancient celebration of spring and the worship of the goddess of spring and fertility. The exchanging of decorated eggs is also very old and is yet another symbol of fertility. Even the hot cross buns traditionally eaten around Easter were once the cakes offered to the pagan goddess (someone once slapped a cross on top of the buns to make it justifiable). Of course, there are more coverups in the story, like the decorated eggs, which have been re-interpreted to symbolize the tomb of Jesus, which is quite a stretch. So then, Easter comes solely from ancient pagan worship, the celebration of the spring solstice, and the worship of the goddess of spring and fertility. The belief was that such worship at the spring solstice would cause the goddess to bless the year to be fertile for the soil and the people.

The traditions of Christmas and Easter are so old (ironically older than the birth of Jesus) that few think twice about how we should consider the holidays. Many Churches today are acting without restraint, engaging in all sorts of festivities that have nothing to do with the Bible, God’s will, and the work and purpose of the church. Such things are foreign to the church of the Bible. But today we can see Easter announcements from churches advertising all sorts of fun events for children and adults alike. We can see church parking lots filled with bouncy houses. When David said, “I was glad when they said to me ‘let us go into the house of God'” I don’t think he meant that he was excited for his turn in a bouncy castle, but to serve the Almighty God with all his might in honor and purity (Psalm 122:1). What we are seeing today is exactly what Jesus was talking about when He said, “this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandment of men” (Mark 7:6-7). Justifying carnally driven fun by saying it is celebrating Christ is not justifiable before God. Churches pounding people with distractions while saying “let’s focus on Christ this holiday” is not even rational. One year, when Christmas fell on a Sunday, the true colors of denominationalism were boldly shown to all the world. The outcry to celebrate the birth of Christ rang out that year like every other year, but when the day came, every church that I drove by on my way to worship had closed its doors so their members could enjoy their family traditions of that day instead of being bothered by worship services. It was a blatant hypocrisy of claiming to be celebrating Christ while not doing the very things he has commanded to be done on the first day of the week. They spent the day exchanging gifts, feasting, and showing that their hearts were far from the command of the Lord.

Let me be clear, I don’t have an issue with anyone exchanging gifts, decorating for seasons, getting together with family, and sharing food; for such activities do not hold any idolatrous connection any longer. But I do have a problem with these things when they get in the way of worship and God’s word. I do have a problem with branding social meals, events and festivities as a celebration of Christ. I do have a problem with calling such traditional festivities a “good thing”. Friends, God declares a thing “good,” not us. Man has labeled many religious ideas and practices “good” that cannot be found in scripture. God, through Isaiah, spoke warning upon those who call evil things “good” (Isaiah 5:20). A Christian can judge something as a good thing when they can identify it in the Word of God. And the Word of God has not given us the authority to honor Christ through the means of Easter or Christmas. As Mark 7:6 proves, honoring Christ is accomplished by having our hearts near Him and His words. To love Christ is to hold fast to His commandments (John 14:15), not the ways of men who adopted the ways of ungodly pagan men. Recall what Jesus said to the Jews who had adopted traditions from men: “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” (Mark 7:9). And again, Jesus said, “why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

In conclusion, we should not honor Christ’s resurrection because it’s Easter today, but we should honor Christ’s resurrection every day because we ought to strive to live united with his resurrection (Romans 6:4-5). We will honor Christ’s resurrection in a special way every Sunday when partaking of the Lord’s Supper with the assembled body of Christ; we do this not because it’s a tradition, but because it is from the authority of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:24-25, Acts 20:7).

Article by Tanner Campbell.