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Return to 4th Quarter 2023 articles.

The title of this article is THE HOLIDAYS WE CELEBRATE with a picture of items from fall holidays we celebrate.

The cover of our 4th quarter 2023 journal with a collage of pictures of holidays we celebrate.

People have established all kinds of days to honor people or events of the past. Mother's Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, Martin Luther King Day, and Labor Day are just a few of the American culture's widely recognized special holidays. These holidays are good, but none of them are commanded by God.

Jesus Christ participated in special days and celebrations, as we can see in John 5:1. Many scholars believe that the unnamed feast was Purim, a celebration of the Jewish people's deliverance in Persia, as told in the book of Esther. Unlike the feasts of Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles (Sukkoth), Purim was not ordained in God's law delivered by Moses. The Feast of Dedication, or Hanukkah, is a celebration of the cleansing of the temple at the time of the Maccabean Revolt. It was not commanded by God, but in John 10:22, we see Jesus in Jerusalem during the celebration.

A happy family sitting at the table and celebrating a holiday.

In Romans 14:5-8, Paul tells us that it does not matter whether or not we consider one day more sacred than another. What matters is that we live to the Lord. In Romans 14:16-19, Paul tells his readers that anyone who serves Christ is pleasing to God and will receive the approval of men. In verse 19, he writes, “Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and mutual edification.”

In Acts 21:20-26, Paul immerses himself in the Jewish purification procedure. In Acts 21:26, Paul, who has shaved his head and gone through the seven days of purification, is recognized by the Jews and nearly loses his life. Paul had been opposing Jewish exclusionism, and God chose him to reach out to the Gentiles (see Acts 9:13-16). If we follow Paul's example, we as Christians will do whatever it takes to produce “peace and mutual edification.”

This issue of the Does God Exist? journal covers the fourth quarter when our culture celebrates three major holidays — Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The Thanksgiving holiday has its roots in the Christian tradition, and the New Testament clearly teaches that Christians should be filled with thanksgiving (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Romans 1:21). Having a time when all Americans are encouraged to be thankful for our blessings and spend time with our families and loved ones is hard for even an atheist to criticize.

Halloween and Thanksgiving natural outdoor decoration.

Halloween has a very different origin. It began as “All Hallows Day” and was celebrated at the end of harvest in Ireland. It was also a Celtic tradition with a feast and games revolving around food. It gradually became a part of Catholic teaching. In 606, Pope Boniface made it a celebration of martyrs, and in 825, Pope Gregory IV initiated praying for the dead. By 1200, church bells rang people out of purgatory, and in France, Italy, and Spain, people left food beside the graves of dead relatives. In 1911, people in America began “guising” using costumes and making fun of Satan. Trick or treat began in 1915.

God has specifically told his people to avoid sorcerers, diviners, witchcraft, spiritists, consulters with the dead, and the like. In passages like Exodus 7:10-12 and Deuteronomy 18:10-12, we see this was not a simple or superficial issue. Even today, people have tried to use spiritism to control others and make money. Christians are obligated to oppose satanic activities.

That said, does a Halloween party or decorations mean we are endorsing destructive practices of the past? Colossians 2:16-23 tells Christians not to allow anyone to judge them on the principles of the world. Colossians 3:1-13, tells Christians to “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” The whole chapter of Romans 6 tells us how to live differently in the exact opposite of the way of Satan and the world. Halloween can be a teaching device if we allow it to be. Children can dress up as an animal or a fictional character and not feel that they are endorsing anything. Portrayals of fictional characters are not dangerous in and of themselves, but we need to use some care and thoughtfulness during this holiday.

Christmas has no satanic component, but what the Bible says and what many Christians believe about the birth of Christ are miles apart. Jesus was certainly not born in December, and there is no biblical command to celebrate the birth of Christ. The star of Bethlehem was not a celestial star and was never seen by the Jewish shepherds or Herod. The star did not stand over the manger but over “where the young Child was” when the magi arrived. The magi were most likely Persian astrologers, and the Bible does not tell us how many there were. You can verify those things by reading Matthew 1:18-23 and Luke 1:26-2:20, the only New Testament references to the birth of Christ.

Christmas nativity scene.

So, what should Christians do about Christmas? Christmas is a wonderful holiday that brings us great music and an economic boost for many. It also encourages giving to people in need. It is a time when people think about Christ and his entrance into our world more than at any other time of the year. Many traditions like Christmas trees, Santa Claus, and gift exchanges do not have biblical support but can be teaching opportunities and times of enjoying relationships.

It is easy to find negatives, but that is not the attitude Christians should have. In the passage from Romans 14, Paul tells us to avoid judging others for esteeming special days. In 1 Thessalonians 5:22, he also warns us to avoid all appearances of evil. Christmas is not evil except when greed and selfishness creep into people's minds, but that can happen anytime.

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
Cover photo(s): Cover images from top to bottom/left to right: © Vershinin89/Bigstock.com; © R_Tavani/Bigstock.com; © taldav68/Bigstock.com; © SILVERBROOK IMAGES/Bigstock.com; © lermont51/Bigstock.com; © Achi_Studio/Bigstock.com; © Jeni Foto/Bigstock.com
© R_Tavani/Bigstock.com
© CHOReograPH/Bigstock.com
© lermont51/Bigstock.com
© taldav68/Bigstock.com

Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.