April 17, 2011
If you observe one holiday this year…
…you’re probably a Jehovah’s Witness.
While trying to explore a new holiday every day — over 100 so far this year and counting — I’ve found there’s one major religious group that gets left out: Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are allowed to observe one holiday all year, and that’s today, the Memorial of Christ’s Death. It’s normally observed at the same time as Passover in the ancient Jewish calendar.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Jesus was born sometime around October, but they don’t celebrate his birth, noting that Jesus gave no indication to his followers to do so. For that matter, they don’t celebrate any birthdays, including their own; birthdays, anniversaries, and other annual holidays are seen as glorification of the individual and as stemming from pre-Christian pagan religions.
Nor do Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate Easter with bunny rabbits and colored eggs, both of which are ancient pagan symbols of spring and fertility.
The reason they do memorialize Jesus’s death comes from Luke 22:19. Jesus breaks bread with His disciples at the Last Supper, and commands them,
“This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
The differences between Jehovah’s Witnesses and other Christians cannot be summed up in one post. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t follow the notion of the Holy Trinity. Jesus is considered the one Son of the Supreme Being Jehovah, but a separate entity; that Jesus was resurrected after his execution, enthroned by Jehovah and “given all authority in heaven and on earth.”
They reject the symbol of the cross, both for its pagan origin and because they believe Christ was executed on a single vertical beam.
And they don’t believe in Hell. When an unbeliever dies, they simply cease to exist, which in part explains the de-emphasis of funerals and why Witnesses, unlike every other religious and cultural group, don’t see the need for memorials other than that of Jesus.
So if you’re wondering about that guy at work who seems nice but who takes off at the first sign of every office party or birthday, it may not be because he’s a snob. It may simply be against his religious practices.
Or because your office parties are boring.