What Jehovah’s Witnesses think about the holiday season

Jessica Carney-Perks, Financial Advisor

Jehovah’s Witnesses are a Christian denomination with a distinctive, diverse set of beliefs and an emphasis on living life in moderation. This denomination is not a sect; there are millions of practicing Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide and the denomination hasn’t “broken away” from Christianity as a religion. 

Witnesses worship on Saturdays in “Kingdom Halls” , led by elders, or more experienced Witnesses, whose leadership is unpaid and strictly for the well being of the congregation. Jehovah God is supreme and of the highest distinction while His son, Jesus, is rather inferior to God and not included as figure of the Holy Trinity.  There also isn’t necessarily a “hell” but there’s less of a chance to be resurrected into another existence, as only a select 144,000 people are chosen to be in the company of angels, Jesus Christ and Jehovah God after death. These are just a few practices separating Jehovah’s Witnesses from other Christians. 

Around the world, they seek to uphold these values and many more through reading the bible, prayer, meditation, helping others and living in moderation.

“I didn’t choose this lifestyle, but I couldn’t imagine it any other way,” Sarai Mitchell, a sophomore at the University of Louisville, said.

However, these unique aspects of life as a Jehovah’s Witness can lead to many misconceptions and judgement, especially around the holiday season. 

Simply put- Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate holidays. The taboo surrounding the celebration of holidays can be traced back to how many are derived from pagan or non-religious contexts and the belief that holidays such as Christmas and Easter were created to capitalize on the public’s faith in a higher power. Years of commercials, brand deals and newspaper ads have led many families to become hooked on how holidays make them feel rather than focusing on the original meaning. The focus shifts away from living in moderation to celebrating consumerism. 

“Being part of the congregation at the [Kingdom] Hall is a family within a family. They make you want to celebrate being together not for a holiday but service. Attending service or completing field service creates memories that no pagan holiday could,” Yusef Dahir, a senior at the University of Louisville, said.

 Jehovah’s Witnesses from the University of Louisville, Georgetown College and Campbellsville University discuss their experiences with the faith and how they’ve handled quarantine and the holidays.

“It’s home. It’s more of a tradition not to get caught up in the holiday festivities but rather the spirit. The time calls for people to gather but not to receive praise or gifts. If we expect gifts, we forget what it’s all about,” Justin Whitledge, a freshman at Campbellsville University, said. 

“Families spend thousands of dollars on the aesthetic and bragging rights. That defeats the purpose of celebrating if it’s simply competition. Some Witnesses still celebrate smaller achievements, but everything is in moderation,” Myra Tamson, a sophomore at Georgetown College, said. 

“After being taught the practices your whole life, then transitioning to college where all these commandments are broken, it’s hard to be faithful. But you understand that as a Witness, you have more at stake. I can’t just be partying and out there, there are eyes and ears I don’t want to disappoint,” Mitchell said. 

Some students dove into their experiences on campus and expressed frustration with how Jehovah’s Witnesses may be labeled or treated.  

“People find us [Jehovah’s Witnesses] annoying when we’re passing out Watchtowers or knocking on strangers’ doors. These same people don’t mind asking neighbors and friends to fundraise for their local pastor’s fund. We’re only “annoying” because we’re asking for something more tangible than money. We are asking for people’s time. With quarantine, fears of COVID-19, during these months, time is something no one can afford to lose,” Tamson said.

Others discussed why the faith is important to them, even during an experimental journey such as college.

“People gotta understand that we don’t spend hours of our day knocking on doors, being laughed, screamed or heckled at for the fun of it. We do this because we care about giving the blind sight. We want to prepare all for their best shot at life with Jehovah God through truth, not money or social media,” Whitledge said.

“I stay the course of the path because I want something bigger than me. Something that can not be taken or mimicked. My relationship with Jehovah is one of one,” Mitchell said. 

The holiday season is celebrated and commemorated differently through various beliefs and cultures. Some people give gifts or have grand nativity scenes at the end of year, while others value the time spent with others. Jehovah’s Witnesses illustrate just how diverse and versatile the holiday season can be by simply sitting out.

“We may not watch The Grinch, hang lights or gather around a tree on the 25th, but living another day to fulfill my purpose is enough to celebrate any day of the year,” Whitledge said.

 More information about Jehovah’s Witnesses can be found here or in the illustrated religious magazine, The WatchTower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom.