Bible Answer

Should Christians Celebrate Christmas or Easter?

I never celebrated Easter or Christmas growing up as I was taught these holidays have pagan origins that have nothing to do with Christ. I am getting married this year and my fiance celebrates both holidays. How should we approach this issue?

Let us begin by expanding on what we wrote in our article on Halloween.

In Col 2:16-17, Paul tells the believers in Colossae they should let no one be their "judge" concerning festivals. The word for judge in the Greek is krino, which in this context carries a negative connotation (i.e., to condemn). For comparison, see the same word used in Luke 6:36; John 3:17, 5:22, 7:51; and Acts 13:27.

So, Paul instructs that we should not allow anyone to condemn us simply because we choose to observe or not observe a festival that honors the Lord in some way. Paul was referring specifically to the Jewish feasts, but the principle he establishes in his teaching can be applied broadly to any ritualistic observance.

Paul says such things are meaningless with respect to our righteousness. We cannot be made more righteous by avoiding festivals nor are we unrighteous because we join in them.

Therefore, your choice to observe or forgo these celebrations has no bearing on your standing before God, because liberty in Christ permits us to act as we feel led when it comes to trivial matters like these.

Paul explains that these festivals are meaningless because in v.17 Paul calls these things "shadows," which means they are merely abstract representations of Christ intended to remind us of Him and His work. Once the substance appeared (i.e., Christ was revealed in the flesh), the shadows God had appointed for men to observe no longer had significance or meaning by themselves. This is why Christians are not obligated to observe the Jewish festivals in the Mosaic Law.

In the case of Christmas, the December observance of Christ's birth coincides with pagan winter rituals, yet we also know the early Church chose to celebrate Christ's birth in this way to redeem the holiday. Therefore, knowing the intent of the holiday was to honor Christ, we can choose to observe Christmas if we wish without sin. We are not honoring pagan teaching simply because our annual holiday coincides with their rituals.

In the case of Easter, the holiday is specifically tied to Christ's resurrection day as part of the Jewish feast of Passover, so observing this tradition is not "pagan" in the least. Nevertheless, a Christian has the liberty to observe this day in some way or ignore it.

In short, observing or ignoring these holidays will have no bearing on our righteousness before Christ. Instead, our obedience is the issue. Obey the leading of the Lord. He will direct us in the exercise of our liberty according to the leading of the Holy Spirit without regard for how other Christians choose to act under similar circumstances.

Regarding your relationship with your future wife, perhaps a useful question to consider in prayer with her is why you would or would not chose to celebrate a given holiday? As I mentioned in the earlier article on Halloween, there could be good reasons to go either way. For example, by abstaining from the holidays you might believe you could improve your witness to certain unbelievers who have misunderstood the holiday.

Another reason to refrain from celebrating the holidays might be to accommodate a friend or family member who is struggling with the celebration in some way. Since the holiday is meaningless with respect to your own righteousness, you might forgo the event out of love for that person. On the other hand, we could determine that observing the holiday (in an appropriate way) would be a useful witness tool for neighbors or it could it be useful for teaching our children about the Lord.

So, here's my suggestion: take each year as they come. Just because you choose to celebrate Christmas one year doesn't mean you can't choose to ignore it the next year. The same goes for Easter or any other event you have reservations about. Christians are supposed to be led by the Spirit and not by rules written on stone in every aspect of our lives, so why feel the need to set a single, unchanging rule for your family? Instead, allow the Holy Spirit the opportunity to guide you in this decision as with any other.

Pray with your future wife over what the Lord wants you to do as a family with each holiday. Be open-minded. Test your assumptions to be sure your flesh is not the thing drawing you toward a holiday or repelling you from it. Finally, do what God tells you, for to do otherwise is sin (Romans 14:23)!

In fact, we can't think of a better way to express your Christian witness than being willing to move freely between observing and abstaining from holidays on the basis of what's best for your family and most effective as a Christian witness. By doing so, you will be demonstrating the power and freedom that comes with liberty in Christ.

Not only might your unbelieving friends experience the love of Christ, but even your Christian friends could learn something about what freedom in Christ is all about. Another thing to consider is your views about a given holiday could change over time, leading to a change in what you want to do. So, be Spirit-led, not rule-driven.

As a postscript to this discussion, remember that the husband in a marriage has the responsibility, according to scripture, to provide spiritual leadership in the home. Therefore, if you and your fiance remain in disagreement over this issue come the next holiday, then it falls to you to decide the issue and then for the family to support your decision. However, the husband is to honor and cherish his wife, placing her needs above his own (Ephesians 5:25), so be sure to give greater consideration to her needs and desires than to your own.