Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate birthdays?

June 23, 2009

Everything in the Bible has been written for a reason, and thankfully, Jehovah has made sure that birthdays be mentioned in his word. Birthdays are mentioned twice in the Bible:

In Genesis 40:20-22, we read about a Pharaoh’s  birthday. At his birthday, he (the Pharaoh) takes two of his servants out from jail: the head of the cupbearers (which are those who would place a cup in Pharaoh’s hand), and the head of the bakers. However, Pharaoh was not being a “hero” by taking them out of jail, as he was the one who put them there in the first place. He put the head of the cupbearers back to his position as he who would put the cup in Pharaoh’s hand. But, as we read in verse 22, the head of bakers was hung.

For those of you who are wondering what the end of verse 22 (“…just as Joseph had given them the interpretation.”) is talking about, Joseph was a faithful servant of Jehovah who was given the ability to interpret dreams. In summary, while the men were in prison, they both had strange dreams and could not understand what they meant but knew they had to mean something. Joseph interprets their dreams for them and basically tells the head of cupbearers that he would return to his post, while the head of bakers would be killed.

The other case mentioned in the Bible is found in  Matthew 14: 6-10. When King Herods was celebrating his birthday, Herodias’s daughter danced for Herods. Because he enjoyed her dance so much, he told her infront of everyone in attendance that whatever she wanted, he would give to her. She asked for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. John the Baptist, for those who do not know,  was an excellent, God-fearing man (after all, he was the one who was chosen to baptize Jesus!). Herods knew that the request was a horrible thing to execute, but because he was the king and had said to the girl that he would do whatever she asked in front of everyone, he didn’t want the people to think less of him as king for not going through with his promise. John, in prison for being faithful to Jehovah, was beheaded in prison and his head was put on the platter and taken to the girl just as she had requested.

Now, what did both accounts have in common? They resulted in murder. And in the second case, we see that John the Baptist was beheaded! A faithful servant to Jehovah! Innocent yet killed in this brutal matter because the dancer’s mother did not like John/did not share his faith, so she took that chance to have him killed even though the king was saddened that this was the request. Because these two accounts (the one found in Genesis and the one found in Matthew) are the only instances where birthdays are mentioned in the Bible, and because both times birthdays are very evidently portrayed as a celebration resulting in murder and injustice, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays.

Some of you may be thinking, “But that was a long time ago. People don’t send for others to be killed at birthday parties anymore.” While we don’t hear of things like this happening at all birthday parties of course, as Jehovah’s Witnesses, we refrain from celebrating birthdays because we feel that Jehovah does not approve of this celebration due to those two accounts recorded in the Bible, and through history we have learned their origins are also pagan.

Does that mean Jehovah’s Witnesses never give their children gifts or throw them parties? Absolutely not! If anything, I genuinely believe that no other people have more parties than we do, which also includes throwing parties for children, and giving them gifts! The Bible does not condemn having fun! And we also value children very much. We sometimes organize surprise parties for the children to show them more than we already do just how much we care about them and how proud we are of them, where we also do give them gifts. Or, sometimes parents give their children gifts on a random day with the same purpose.  Aren’t good surprises when you least expect them, fun? And then there’s graduations, whether its from Pre-school, elementary, junior high/middle school, high school, college, etc etc. We like to show children that we are proud of their efforts and accomplishments. That’s not to say only children have parties thrown for them, adults too! Maybe someone just received a new privilege in the congregation, or maybe we want to say thank you in another way other than words to those who help the congregation… what better way then to throw them a party?

I hope this post has answered the question, Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate birthdays? satisfactorily for everyone!

Sorry for the delay in the post being put up,
it seems I had pressed “Save Draft” instead of “Publish” without realizing it!


37 Responses to “Why Don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate birthdays?”

  1. cristin Says:

    this does not make sense to me. it was not the birthday that caused the murder, but the poor judgement of those individuals.
    this is like saying if it rains on monday and someone dies on monday, the rain caused her death.
    can you please provide a more clear answer of why JW do not celebrate birthdays or attend funerals?
    i thougt it had something to do with the fact that god created people before their birthday or something….

    • isaac Says:

      although it was not the birthday that caused the deaths but at both occasions there were someone who died. but no just died. they were murdered. Another point is the fact that niether in the hebrew nor greek scriptures there is any indication of celbrating somebodys birthdate. jesus christ told his disciples to celebrate or commeorate his death. if birhtdays were so important dont you think he would have told them to celebrate his birthday too?

    • Tabitha Says:

      It’s a few reasons why. It’s not ONLY because of the murders that were committed on these two accounts, but also the fact that Jesus gave all of us commands on how to serve his father (Jehovah). Nowhere in the Bible does it say Christians / Jesus celebrate birthdays. Down to the 4th century, Christians rejected birthday celebrations. The only ones that took part in birthdays were pagan believers. Christians did not take part and nither did Jesus Christ. We Also take into consideration the origin of birthdays. Their origins lie in the realm of magic. The lighting of candles – in ancient times were mean to protect the birthday celebrant from demons. These are just a couple reasons why we don’t celebrate birthdays.

      • Holly Says:

        then where in the Bible does it support celebrations such as graduations, promotions of a new job, or any other random celebration we create in our heads? All of those should then be considered pagan as well!?

      • Holly, I have the feeling you are just trying to give attitude. Obviously celebrating a promotion or graduation is not pagan because it is celebrating an accomplishment that required a lot of effort. Educating one’s self is not pagan. That wouldn’t make any sense.

  2. Nate Says:

    I was wondering why the watch tower society clebrates the birth of their organization and not the birth of their children. Please help me out may be I am missing something.
    thank you for your time

    • Nate, I am not sure where you are getting that from (your claim that the Watchtower society celebrates the birth of the organization) because that is not true.

  3. David Says:

    You’ve used the word ‘condone’ incorrectly. To say that the Bible does not condone having fun is to say that the Bible does not allow people to partake in fun activities. Maybe you meant to say condemn.

  4. marie claire Says:

    I am still studying with Jehovah’s witnesses, thanks for this for whoever the owner of this, and for isaac also, it helped me with explaining that i am not going to have a birthday, i hurriedly searched the net for the answers because my cousins were forcing me to celebrate a birthday because they will be coming to my home.

    • Keep it up Marie Claire 🙂 It is the best decision you can ever make n your life to study with JWs. Remember to pray for his guidance to find the right words when explaining your new-found Bible-based beliefs 🙂
      May Jehovah bless your efforts and shower you with blessings. Best wishes!

      • calyxie Says:

        Thanks Amora,.May Jehova bless you also for letting anyone learn about HIM through here, your blog 😀

  5. Denise Says:

    I am happy to hear that you are studying God’s word Marie Claire, I am encouraged by the explanations given above as well guys.

  6. Holly Harrison Says:

    Really? You don’t celebrate birthdays because of two stories in the bible? Get this straight: birthday celebrations are not godless. PEOPLE are godless and how people choose to carry out their days are godless. I choose to celebrate the fact that God blessed me with a son and I choose to celebrate this every year on his birthday. We have cake, presents, balloons, family and friends. Nothing godless about that. And let me be clear on something else. You have no backing on your research that birthday and holiday celebrations have paganistic roots then you shouldn’t say it like its a fact. Lastly, stop knocking on my door. I choose not to take away the deity of Jesus and therefor do not believe a word any of you say

    • Thank you for visiting the blog, Holly. To respond to your comment:
      1) actually, you can find information about how birthdays are pagan in origin very easily, it is just a matter of You actually looking, instead of assuming. I am confident that if you put even the slightest of efforts in Finding that information, you will. You can find that information through Google, encyclopedias, even catholic encyclopedias.
      2) I don’t know why you are telling me to stop knocking on your door: I don’t know you, and considering that this blog’s stats show that this blog is viewed by people in about 50 countries, I really doubt I have knocked on your door.
      3) I think you need to ask the next JW that knocks on your door Why we knock on doors. You will gain a lot more insight if you just ask, instead of staying in your house assuming we just knock doors because we have nothing else to do. I myself am a college student, full-time employee, and a wife, so I Do have a LOT going on in my life, just like other JWs do as well. Therefore, seeing how busy we are should hopefully give you at least some bit of curiosity as to why we go door to door voluntarily (because NO ONE is paid) while having very busy lives.

  7. Elie Says:

    i was curious about this topic since i’m trying to walk right with God so i did a google search and came across this. i havent gone through the whole bible yet, but i can say Genesis & Mathew is not the only mention of a bithday. Lets remember the book of Job in the first chapter there is mention of his sons celebrating their birthdays every year for each brother. Job would then make a sacrafice for them, but not for the Birthday, but becuase he feared they may have sinned against God by 1. drinking to much 2. cursing Gods name or 3. Do something with there sisters. Not for the celebration of the birthday and i read it in 4 different versions to make sure i understood why he did the sacrafices. and technically the birth of Jesus is a birthday and it was in fact a small celebration if you think about it.

    Now to use those two examples the baker & John the baptist is a mis use of the Bible and a misguided self developed interpretation of those stories. The birthday is not a sin and does not go against God. The baker was being punished for his conduct. And John was being punished by a heathen for his good work.

    • Dear Elie,
      The passage in Job you referred to never mentions birthdays. It explicitly says the brothers had banquets. Also, it does not say Job feared his sons doing “something” with their sisters. It says that he offered sacrifices to Jehovah just in case they had sinned- but it does not say anything more detailed than that.

      • EvanK Says:

        Ellie makes a good point. A banquet is not traditionally held as an every day thing. It’s reserved for a special occasion, or otherwise used as a celebration of something. The New World Translation harps on specifics or word or phrase, so I myself see no difference in there being a banquet held, or some other name for an annual celebration of someone’s life.

        I completely understand the reasoning behind why JW’s don’t celebrate birthdays. It’s not about not seeing the reasoning behind it. It is, however, dated. There have been several good points made, such as it rains on Monday, someone dies on Monday, the rain must be killing people. So rain is bad. The desire to shun any thing that may be considered a gray area is a trademark of a JW, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but at what expense? Common sense? Free choice and judgement?

        The bible wasn’t written as a strict rulebook, it was given so that those who needed it could use it as a guide to help them decipher right from wrong, and go forward making their own choices based on the points they learned from it. Do you still not eat pigs, or stone your children to death, or not work on Sundays, or only have sex solely to make children? Is not most Leviticul law outdated and absurd? So perhaps the reasoning for mentioning those two birthdays in the bible came from there being something to mention, instead of the fact that they were birthdays. Normal birthdays don’t make the news, why would they make the bible? I’m sure in history some crazy mom did something bad on Mother’s Day, but JWs still observe that, though Jesus didn’t teach to go forth and celebrate Mother’s Day…?

        I see the core point, but my common sense keeps me from agreeing. It’s a little over the top. It’s not pagan to celebrate the anniversary of your child coming into the world, not it’s accomplishments over the past year. The rituals may stem from such things, thousands of years ago, but not anymore. We don’t smear shit in wounds anymore either, but the fact that we once did long ago isn’t keeping me from going to the hospital.

      • To keep this reply short and simple as your comment was very lengthy:
        -About “gray areas”: These are what we regard as matters of Conscience. That is to say, it is left up to each jw individually how they will consider such a matter. If their conscience permits something, let them not be seen negatively for it but respect their opinion. Likewise, those whose conscience bother them about something in the “gray area” should be respected also.
        – Your claim that the Bible is dated: The Bible was written for our instruction, for everyone’s no matter what year/time. It is not like a newspaper that is dropped off at your front door and features news of what happened the day before and suddenly becomes irrelevant the next day.
        – “Free choice”: We absolutely believe that every person has the right to choose what they wish. Jehovah God himself gave us the right to free will, which is why we are not like robots: we have the right to choose about anything, God gave us that right to make our own choices whether they are choices that glorify him or not. It is up to us to make the choices that DO honor him though.
        – Mothers Day: I don’t know why you think we celebrate Mothers Day because we do not. We believe mothers (as well as fathers) should be honored every day through respect and appreciation, not forcefully like other people do on ONE day because it’s “Mother’s Day”. That would be ingenuine.
        If you would like to read more on birthdays being pagan, please see Gigi’s link. It’s a good bit of information.

      • Elie Says:

        Thank you for your response. But please identify which bible you are in fact using. i took the time to look at 4 different bible versions as well as the Jehovah witness bible and found that the other books clearly say ‘birthday’ in Job. and explain it as they held baquets on their birthdays. But the witness bible changes the wording to ‘on their day’ rather then saying ‘birthday’ as in the case of genesis and the other mentioned mathew. i found it interesting that they would change the word ‘birthday’ in the book of job. but leave it in those to books. If you do look at the other versions some provide more details then the others. and they explain why he made the sacrafices after each birthday festival.

      • Elie,
        Please refer to the link provided in Gigi’s comment. I could write a whole explanation here but it is also given in Gigi’s link efficiently. There are various translations of the Bible that also use the phrase “on their day” as can be noted in Gigi’s link.

  8. GiGi La-Pre Says:

    Hello, I hope it’s okay to use a different religious page to explain this, as it does back up your explanation, and may appease those who do not trust Jehovah’s Witnesses, even though you have given the proper information. It also adds more information using scriptures and ‘other’ sources.

    • Gigi,
      Thank you for your comment and contribution. I read all the info on the link you provided and found it to be very good information and a good explanation as well. That being said, I hope this also shows that JWs respect other religions and especially when there is a belief that has been well-researched as ours. 🙂 Thank you Gigi.

      • gglapre Says:

        You’re welcome. I too hope that this shows respect for other religions… and the fact that JW’s do not rely ONLY on their own publications, and/or bible version, but look to other ‘proven’ information for clarity (i.e.: scientific data, etc.). 🙂

    • angel Says:

      This was awesomely informative!!!thank you so much!

  9. I am a music teacher and am expected to do a holiday concert. I have a JW student in grade K who I just found out cannot participate. It is a bit of a dilemma.

    • Dear Chris,
      I’m very glad you commented because I personally played in orchestras playing the violin since I was in elementary school all the way through High School- I was “first chair first” and always in public schools and carried my fellow orchestral players to winning the Superior rating both in performance and Sight Reading in Southern Calif. music festival back then. Never did I have a problem because of my religious beliefs. My orchestra director/s always respected me. During winter holiday seasons, when preparing for “concerts”, only one (maximum of 2) piece/s were holiday piece/s out of 5 for example. To respect my beliefs, my instructor always gave me the option of either sitting in Rest position (violin standing in lap and bow in other hand also upright on lap) while the rest of the orchestra played the piece, OR he would have them play the holiday piece first, then I would walk on stage after that piece and join the orchestra to play with the orchestra for the remaining songs. My last year, my instructor, who by then I had known as MY instructor for 6 years, actually asked me for a piece that I would like the orchestra to play from the JW songbook! I thought that was an incredible demonstration of his respect for not only me but my beliefs and would show “diversity”, if you will, in beliefs as you must acknowledge exists. I hope my reply helps you. Please feel more than welcome to reply!

      • Tim Harols Says:

        I’m an educator. I am not a religious person and feel strongly about people having the freedom to practice whatever religion they so chose. However, I have a Jehovah’s Witness student in my classroom and I feel so bad for him. Every other student gets to talk passionately about celebrating birthdays and holidays. Meanwhile he’s out in left field. I try my best to not make a big deal out of his lack of participation. I just couldn’t imagine raising a child like that.

      • Hello Tim,
        While I think it is nice of you to feel “compassion” for what you think is something that children think they are missing, I think you are perhaps looking for something that might not be there. And I say that because I grew up a JW. My family did not start studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses until I was in school. I went to public schools all my life, and I have had many, many friends that are not JWs, that celebrated their birthdays. While you think that it’s such a major deprivation, let me tell you by personal experience that is not. The thing about adults is that adults build prejudice, whereas children are not born with it. When I was a child and I told my peers that I did not celebrate birthdays, they did not put me down for it or anything similar. They had genuine curiosity as to why. Many of my friends respected that, and many defended me for my beliefs, even if they did not share them. I never felt deprived.

  10. gglapre Says:

    If I may…
    Christopher, I don’t think it would be a “dilemma”, as such, if you speak to the student’s parents ahead of time. Perhaps, together, you can come up with a satisfying solution. JW parents are always happy to discuss their beliefs, and possible options, with anyone willing to ask and/or listen. I hope this helps, and that you find a way out of your dilemma.

  11. shyam Says:

    Dear Friends, I recommend to find more articles at http://www.jw.org


  12. Meshi Says:

    Thanks for the information.
    But I’m wondering about the fact that the bible has different versions and has been changed over time as you and others have mentioned in the comments above. How could it be after all that the word of God!!!

  13. Chelsea Says:

    Why do you not celebrate Christmas and Easter what is so wrong with giving gifts and eating chocolate

  14. […] Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate birthdays, because the only two accounts of birthday parties in the Bible resulted in murder. You know – I can kind of see where they’re coming from. (Source) […]

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