As fall approaches, I get excited about a lot of things: The Feast of Tabernacles, the start of football season, cooler weather and Thanksgiving, to name a few. Of course, there are a few things fall brings that I’m not wild about: Halloween and then the incessant barrage of Christmas music that begins almost immediately afterward, for example . . .
Not celebrating Halloween and Christmas usually brings lots of questions from both friends and strangers. The questions usually come down to people wanting to know why you don’t observe those holidays. You’ve probably had to explain that those particular holidays have their origins in pagan customs, and you won’t find them in the Bible. But has anyone ever thrown you a curveball by then asking, “Okay, so why do you celebrate Thanksgiving? That’s not in the Bible either . . .”
That’s a fair question and one we should know how to answer.
DO SOME RESEARCH
As mentioned, one of the main reasons we don’t celebrate holidays like Halloween and Christmas is that they have their origins in pagan customs. A quick Internet search will quickly show that Halloween is connected to ancient Celtic traditions that celebrated the dead and attempted to ward off evil spirits. It evolved into celebrating these spirits and trying to appease them by leaving out treats. This eventually became the practice of trick-or-treating we know today. This is in direct violation of God’s command in Leviticus 19:31, “Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them, to be defiled by them: I am the Lord your God.”
Similarly, a search into Christmas’ origins reveals that while many believe it is about celebrating Christ’s birth, it is far from that. Greek and Roman religions celebrated the winter solstice (occurring in late December) on a regular basis. As their empires expanded and people of other nationalities and religions were absorbed into their culture, holidays were often given new names and traditions to create a sense of unity in the empire. When Christianity became a force to be reckoned with, the idea of celebrating Jesus’ birth was merged into these pagan customs, giving us what we know as Christmas today. (For more information on why we don’t keep Halloween, Christmas, Easter and other secular holidays, see our study aid Holidays or Holy Days: Does it Matter Which Days We Observe?)
WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?
Aside from the fact that these holidays celebrate evil and false gods (even though some try to add Jesus Christ into the mix), another major issue is that they pretend to be something they are not. They pretend to be sacred or holy time. Time that is holy and sacred is plainly declared in the Bible. Leviticus 23:1-2 tells us, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the Lord, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts.”’” God clearly declares that the days He commands, such as the weekly Sabbath, the Feast of Trumpets, etc. are holy. No other being can declare time holy!
WHERE DOES IT COME FROM?
It’s here that we can begin to see what sets Thanksgiving apart from Halloween and Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn’t pretend to be something it is not. Once again, a quick Internet search will show the true origins of Thanksgiving. From History.com:
“In September 1620, a small ship called the Mayflower left Plymouth, England, carrying 102 passengers—an assortment of religious separatists seeking a new home where they could freely practice their faith and other individuals lured by the promise of prosperity and land ownership in the New World” (“The History of Thanksgiving”).
As you no doubt know, that first winter was hard on the new settlers and many did not survive. Disease and starvation were rampant, and if not for the help of the indigenous people of North America the following year, the United States of America might not exist as we know it today. The article goes on:
“In November 1621, after the Pilgrims’ first corn harvest proved successful, Governor William Bradford organized a celebratory feast and invited a group of the fledgling colony’s Native American allies, including the Wampanoag chief Massasoit. Now remembered as America’s ‘first Thanksgiving’—although the Pilgrims themselves may not have used the term at the time—the festival lasted for three days.”
Thanksgiving today is exactly what it said it was in the beginning: a day of thanks for the blessings we have in the United States. It doesn’t pretend that it is holy time. It doesn’t celebrate false gods. It simply commemorates and celebrates the physical blessings of the fall harvest that helped establish the early settlers of this country.
A similar study could be done for the Fourth of July. From Wikipedia:
“Independence Day, known colloquially as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States commemorating the Declaration of Independence, which was ratified by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, establishing the United States of America” (“Independence Day (United States)”).
Again, the origins of the Fourth of July are very plain and simple. It’s a time set aside to celebrate the freedom we have in the United States. It’s not a mix of ancient religion and Christianity. It’s just an acknowledgment of the great blessing of freedom experienced in this country. In other countries, similar days such as Canada Day, Cinco de Mayo and Bastille Day are celebrated for similar reasons. Research would also show that days like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day have innocent origins.
So, is it okay to celebrate Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July? The answer is: absolutely! Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July don’t pretend to be religious, and don’t have their origins rooted in worshiping false gods; they are simply man-made holidays created to remember significant events.