Why I Observe and Celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays!

I have been asked on numerous occasions why I choose to celebrate/observe the National Holidays or Special Days that have religious connotations like Thanksgiving and Christmas (and Easter) since they are not specifically mentioned in the Bible. Some of those who asked me think it is wrong, others have serious doubts about it, and some just did not know either way. The following article will give the reasons why I observe these National Holidays that honor God.

One. According to the Dictionary the word “holiday” means: “1: holy day 2: a day on which one is exempt from work; specifically: a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” The word holiday can mean a “holy day” but, according to the second definition, it can also mean “a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” In America the Thanksgiving Holiday is celebrated more in the sense of the second definition than the first. It is actually in this sense that I observe the day. I do what many people in America do: spend time with the family, eat a Thanksgiving meal, watch football (Detroit Lions versus whoever), sleep, eat some more etc. Therefore, I do not observe the Thanksgiving Day as a “holy day” in the strict sense of the words (holy + day). The National Holidays are not “holy + days” per se, but rather days “marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” That is the sense in which I observe them. I personally do not know anyone who celebrates/observes Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day in the same sense that the Jews observed their holy days in the Old Testament. But since I observe the fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and other National Holidays, I see no reason not to observe Thanksgiving and Christmas in the same way. I am glad that we have a day set aside to commemorate our freedom and honor our soldiers, and I am also glad that we have days relating to thanking God and the birth of Jesus. It is much the same way that I refer to the word Sunday. When I refer to Sunday it is not in the sense of “sun + day” (honoring the “sun”), but rather the first day of the week and on the first day of the week there are certain things I do (assemble for worship, etc.) that I do not do on other days and that is the sense in which I observe the National Holidays.

Two. It is my understanding that when Paul condemned observing “days and months and seasons and years” (Gal. 4:10), he was condemning those who were attempting to be “justified” by the law of Moses (Gal. 5:4). He was telling those who wanted to bind the law of Moses, which included “circumcision” (Gal. 5:3) and “days, months, and years” (Gal. 4:10) on Christians as the means of justification, that they had “fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4). The law of Moses was a “yoke of bondage” and Christians are free from that arrangement (Gal. 5:1). It is my judgment that this is the sense (seeking justification by keeping the law of Moses which commanded observing “days”) in which the Bible condemns observing special days. I do not observe our National Holidays in this sense and I never have.

Three. God gives the liberty to each Christian to be fully persuaded “in his own mind” concerning observing certain days in other contexts and for other reasons. For example, Paul wrote, “One person esteems one day above another” and “another who esteems every day alike.” Then he adds, “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom. 14:5-6). These verses clearly teach that a person can “esteem one day above another” if he chooses to, as long as does not condemn those who choose to do otherwise, and that is exactly what I do. I do not demand that anyone observe National Holidays with religious connotations, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, as I do, but I let each one make up his own mind. I am not going to let anyone stop me from observing these days in the way I observe them, and I am not going to demand that any brother/sister start observing the days unless he/she wants to. I choose to honor the days because I think it honors God for our Nation to have National Holidays that focus on giving God thanks and commemorating the birth of Jesus.

Four. Many (and probably most) of the Christians I know do exactly what those of us who “observe the Thanksgiving Holiday” do. They get together with their families for Thanksgiving meals, churches give out food or make special contributions to worthy causes, and they wish people “Happy Thanksgiving” or “Happy Holiday” etc. If they are not observing the “day” it would be hard for anyone to realize it. It certainly has an “appearance of evil” if it is wrong (1 Thess. 5:22, KJV). The same goes for the Christmas holiday. They put up Christmas trees, give gifts, have Santa Claus, sing carols, change services from Wednesday to Tuesday, give Christmas or Holiday fruit baskets, wish people a Merry Christmas or Happy Holiday–which has to be “Christmas” since that is only National Holiday in December that is observed by Christians—and do many other things that those of us who observe the day do.( By the way, it seems a little strange, to say the least, that there are some in our country and, sad to say, even in the church, who think that saying “Happy Holiday” instead of “Merry Christmas” actually changes anything. If I wish someone a “Happy Holiday” in July then I must be referring to “Independence Day” because that is the only National Holiday in July. Therefore, I am wishing them a Happy “Independence Day” whether I like it or not, or whether I actually say it or not, because that is the only Holiday observed. It would seem a little strange to wish them a Happy Holiday, but not be referring to “Independence Day.” If I were opposed to observing “Independence Day” then I would avoid any reference to a “Holiday” altogether. I would also avoid doing the things that others do in celebrating the day—putting up flags, fireworks, etc. The same is true of Thanksgiving and Christmas. If I were opposed to observing these National Holidays then I would avoid using the words “Happy Holiday” that refer solely and only to theses days in the minds of Christians in these months. For example, I do not personally observe the Jewish holiday “Hanukkah” (“an 8-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Temple of Jerusalem after its defilement by Antiochus of Syria”) that is celebrated/observed by the Jewish people in December. Therefore, I do not say “Merry Hanukkah” or “Happy Holiday” when referring to that day. I avoid it altogether. I do not do what the Jewish people do who celebrate/observe the day, because I personally do not observe the day as a Holiday. I purposely avoid doing those things that the Jewish people do, because I do not want anyone to think I was observing it. If others want to observe it that is fine, but not me. If, as a Christian, I was opposed to the Christmas Holiday I would not: put up Christmas trees and Christmas lights, or send Christmas/holiday cards, or give Christmas gifts, or have Christmas parties, or change meeting times because of Christmas eve or Christmas day, or sing Christmas carols, or give out Christmas/Holiday fruit baskets, or wish people a Merry Christmas” or Happy (Christmas) Holiday, or do any of the other things that those who celebrate and observe the day typically do. Personally, I would either have get in or get out. I would not try to do something that appears to “straddle the fence” or “come down on both sides of the question.” I would either leave it alone altogether, or do like most everyone else does. I would not be comfortable doing the same things that others do, who observe/celebrate the day, and then say that I am not celebrating/observing it.

Five. I know that there is nothing specifically said in the Bible about our country making Thanksgiving and Christmas National Holidays. But neither is there anything in the Bible that specifically says that we should have the phrase “one nation under God” in our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, but I am glad to participate in making the pledge, and I am especially proud that I live in a country that has the phrase as part of the pledge. Also, there is nothing in the Bible that specifically says we should have “in God we trust” on our money, but I certainly support the idea and would personally oppose removing the phrase. In the same way, I am glad that I live in a country that has a day set aside to give thanks to God (Thanksgiving) and a day to commemorate the birth of Jesus (Christmas).

Six. Is there any indication as to what Jesus Himself would do in a similar situation? I believe there might be. Most scholars that I have read agree that the Christmas Holiday originated with men (who wanted to honor God) and not specifically from the teaching of the New Testament. But it seems to me that the Jews could have had a similar kind of holiday as well. It is known as the “Feast of Dedication” or “Chanukah” or “Hanukah.” You will not find it anywhere in the Old Testament. As far as we know, it originated with man, because it did not come about from a direct statement of God found in the Old Testament. It commemorates the deliverance and re-dedication of the temple during the Maccabean period of Jewish history. But what did Jesus do during the Feast of Dedication? (Read John 10:22-24). He evidently did not boycott it. As far as I know, He did not condemn others for observing it. He used it as an opportunity to teach. On a day when the people commemorated their deliverance from Antiochus, Jesus teaches them about Himself. Would it be wrong to do what Jesus did on this occasion? Instead of boycotting Christmas or avoiding it altogether, I see an opportunity to become all things to all men in order to teach them more about Jesus (1 Cor. 9:19-22). In my judgment, it is far better to teach about the birth of Jesus, and what His coming means to the world, rather than to condemn those who honor His birthday even though most admit that no one actually knows the exact day. It is a great time to teach them how people can be honestly mistaken about things taught in the Bible (such as, three wise men, wise men coming to stable, etc), rather than condemn them for things that are not wrong in and of themselves. In a time when many people are thinking about the baby Jesus, I think it is also an ideal time to teach them about the babe who is now the risen Lord!

Seven. Since so many in our nation are trying to take God out of everything, I personally am not going to encourage them by opposing, or neglecting, things that focus attention on thanking God and the birth of Jesus. It is also interesting (and disturbing) to me that many in our Nation only want to take Christ out of the Holidays. Some, who would not object to the “Thanksgiving” holiday, do object to the “Christmas” holiday. They would not want to take “Thanks” out of “Thanksgiving,” or “Independence” out of the fourth, or “Veterans” out of “Veterans Day,” or “Those who died for our country” out of “Memorial Day,” etc. But when it comes to Christmas, which is a National Holiday “that commemorates the birth of Christ and is usually observed as a legal holiday,” people want the take Jesus out altogether. There was no “room” for Jesus in the “Inn” in Bethlehem, and more and more people are finding no room for Him in our country and even in some of our Churches. I realize that some in our Churches have honest convictions about leaving Jesus out of it, but in my judgment this is one of the things that they need to reconsider, especially among those who have “Christmas” but do not have “Christ” as part of it. There is probably more objection to the holiday honoring Christ (Christmas), than all of the other holidays combined. I wonder why that is?

Eight. There is much more in the Bible about the birth of Christ than most people realize, and what better time to teach it than at a time of the year when people are thinking about it. (By the way, most people are going to think more about His birth during the Christmas season than at any other time of the year, whether they want or not. Some are going to think about it positively and focus on His birth and why he came. Others are going to think negatively and how those of us who focus on His birth should not be focusing on His birth. But most Christians are going to think more about it in one way or the other. Some will look at the manger scenes and Christmas things and think that it is, “A Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Others will see the same scenes and think that people should not be thinking about manger scenes and Christmas things, and they will think about how they should not think about it at all. But, regardless of the reason, most will think more about it in one way or the other). I usually speak/think about freedom during the fourth of July week. I usually speak/think about memorials during the week of Memorial Day. I usually speak/think about Thanksgiving during the Thanksgiving Holiday week. So why wouldn’t I speak/think/sing about the birth of Jesus in December. In my judgment, there is no better time of the year to teach about who He is, how He came, and why He came (especially concerning His birth) than at Christmas time. Furthermore, most Christians I know believe it right to preach about the birth of Jesus any time we want to. Therefore, I always want to preach about His birth at Christmas.

Nine. One of my main reasons for observing and supporting the Christmas Holiday is the attention that Jesus gets. I watched on TV the “Disneyland Christmas Parade” from Orlando, Florida. It was a great parade and one of things I was impressed with most was the “Christmas Songs” focusing on the birth of Jesus. People from all races, backgrounds, and religions watched and listened as the performers sang about Jesus and His birth. I saw some of those in the audience singing along with the “Stars.” They sang: “Away In A Manger” and they called “Jesus” the “little Lord Jesus.” They sang, “O Holy Night” and they said, “It is the night of our dear Savior’s birth.” There were other songs that put the emphasis on Jesus and His coming into the world as well as why He came. Whether the singers were sincere or not is not mine to say. But like Paul said, “whether in pretense or in truth Christ is preached and I therein rejoice” (Phil. 1:15-18).

Ten. The following is part of what Dale Jenkins published on his blog.

Regardless of how you feel about how Christmas and other holidays should be celebrated (and there are all sorts of shades and arguments on this one. The most interesting one I heard said we shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving – yes, Thanksgiving – because Christians should be thankful all the time) it would seem plain foolish to overlook the stats below and not capture this moment for the Lord and His Cause:
Top Five Times People Are Open To Considering Matters Of Faith…
#5 – After the birth of a baby (28%)
#4 – After a natural disaster (34%)
#3 – After a major national crisis i.e. 9/11 (38%)
#2 – During the Easter season (38%)
#1 – During the Christmas season (47%)
Chris Robison
YMCA of Scottsville & Allen County

Eleven: Since Christ is “in season” during the Christmas Holidays why any of us would not want to take positive advantage of that is hard to understand and openly opposing it is even harder–especially in our culture and the way our Nation seems to be headed. But it is probably still true that the “children of world are in their generation wiser than the children of light” (Lk. 16:8). Why do I say that? Because the “children of the world” in our generation today seem to take advantage of every opportunity to oppose God, while the “children of light” neglect and even oppose what seems to me to be excellent opportunities to magnify the Jesus and what He has done.

Of course, I am not saying that other Christians have to agree with me on these matters, but these are my personal views as to why I choose to observe and celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas Holidays.

Finally, I hope all of you have a “Happy Thanksgiving” and a “Merry Christmas” or, if it makes you feel better……“Happy Holidays.” Of course, if you don’t like either greeting, I wish you a “Happy New Year”….there is nothing “religious” or “God honoring” about that in the minds of most. Blessings!

Wayne Dunaway

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