Red wine is served during the Memorial celebration in remembrance of Jesus' sacrificial blood.
Red wine is served during the Memorial celebration in remembrance of Jesus' sacrificial blood.

The closest Jehovah’s Witnesses come to celebrating a holiday is the observation of what they commonly call the “Memorial” -- the commemoration of Jesus’ death, which falls around Easter and Passover time.

The group pays close attention to the origins of all other festivities and finds in Bible Scriptures the validation to abstain from celebrating most religious, local and national holidays.

The Memorial -- Lord’s Evening Meal

This celebration commemorates the sacrificial death of Jesus. Based on the Bible Scripture in Luke 22:19, where Jesus instructed his apostles to “keep doing this in remembrance of me,” Jehovah’s Witnesses feel this is the only event that Christians are commanded to memorialize. Witnesses celebrate it with a special lecture after sundown on the date that corresponds to Nisan 14 on the Jewish calendar, which may or not coincide with Passover. During the Lord’s Evening Meal described in the book of Mark, Jesus served bread and said, “This means my body.” Later he passed wine around the table and said: “This means my blood.” For that reason, Jehovah’s Witnesses serve plates with unleavened bread and cups of wine during their Memorial celebration, which every person in attendance takes and passes on to the individual sitting beside him. Most do not consume the bread or wine, because Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that only those in a special covenant with God to receive the reward of heavenly life after death should. The number of those in such covenant is limited to 144,000 people.

Other Holidays

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas because they do not believe that Jesus was born on Dec. 25. They believe the New Year’s holiday is rooted in the pagan celebration of Janus, the Roman god of beginning and transitions. They believe Halloween and Dia de los Muertos find their roots in a Celtic celebration for the god of the dead Samhain. Similarly, they trace the origins of most other religious and festive holidays to pagan sources, and therefore abstain from participation.

Non-Holiday Celebrations

Because the Bible makes no reference to the birthday celebration of any believer, Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays. The two instances that are mentioned in the Scriptures, one for the Pharaoh of Egypt and one for Herod Antipas, are presented in a negative light, the latter including the decapitation of a servant of God, John the Baptizer. The majority of Witnesses do celebrate their wedding anniversaries, but a few abstain from this too, finding it too similar to a birthday celebration.

Political/National holidays

Jehovah’s Witnesses refrain from celebrating national political holidays such as the Fourth of July, Memorial Day and Veterans Day. They believe such holidays represent “this world,” the society that Jesus, as recorded in John 18:36, said his kingdom was separate from. It is the same reasoning that keeps the group’s members from saluting their country’s flag and singing national anthems. They are not concerned about being criticized for this, taking solace in John 15:19, in which Jesus warned that “because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.”