The Bible nowhere instructs Christians to celebrate holidays. Days such as Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day, birthdays, anniversaries, etc., are not mentioned in Scripture. The Bible does not even mandate Christmas or Easter observances. The lack of any biblical command or precedent regarding the celebration of modern holidays has led some to refrain from observing these days, even those holidays that are considered Christian.
The only holidays mentioned in Scripture are the Jewish feast days: Passover (Mark 14:12), Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6), Firstfruits (Leviticus 23:10; 1 Corinthians 15:20), Pentecost (Acts 2:1), Trumpets (Leviticus 23:24), the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:27), and Tabernacles (Leviticus 23:34). Many scholars believe the feast mentioned in John 5:1 is Purim, although it is unnamed. The Old Testament also mentions the New Moon festival, which marked the consecration to God of each new month in the year. New Moon festivals involved sacrifices, the blowing of trumpets (Numbers 10:10), the suspension of all labor and trade (Nehemiah 10:31), and social or family feasts (1 Samuel 20:5). None of these holidays, although “biblical” in the sense that they are in the Bible, are mandated for Christians. Jesus Christ came to fulfill the law (Matthew 5:17) and establish a new covenant (Luke 22:20), and the Jewish feasts find their fulfillment in Him.
While there is no command in the Bible for New Testament Christians to celebrate holidays, neither is there a prohibition from doing so. The Bible never speaks against celebrating holidays. On the basis of that alone, it is allowable for Christians to celebrate holidays.
Some Christians avoid celebrating holidays because many of the holidays celebrated today—even those usually labeled as “Christian” holidays—are of questionable origin. It’s true that the Christian celebration of certain holidays may represent a reclamation of pagan celebrations—an ancient pagan holiday was “redeemed” for God’s glory, imbued with new meaning, and adorned with different traditions designed to worship the Lord. Some Christians cannot overlook the historical pagan associations of those holidays; others have come to terms with the history and praise God for the modern opportunity to magnify God’s name.
Some holidays are more overtly compatible with Christianity than others. Christmas and Easter, of course, are Christian celebrations of Jesus’ birth and resurrection. Thanksgiving Day promotes the biblical ideal of gratefulness. Such holidays give Christians plenty of reason to celebrate. Other holidays, such as Halloween and Groundhog Day, are a little more difficult to associate with biblical beliefs.
Christians trying to decide whether or not to celebrate a holiday should consider a few things: a) Does the holiday in any way promote false doctrine, superstition, or immorality (Galatians 5:19–23)? b) Can we thank God for what we observe on a holiday (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18)? c) Will celebrating the holiday detract from our Christian testimony or witness (Philippians 2:15)? d) Is there a way to “redeem” elements of the holiday and use them to glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31)? In asking all these questions, we should pray to God, asking Him for guidance (James 1:5).
In the end, the celebration of holidays is a matter of conscience. Romans 14:4–6a makes this clear: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. . . . One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord.” We can draw several principles from this passage:
1) Christians may have sincere disagreements about the observance of holidays, and such disagreements are not to be a source of conflict.
2) Each of us must give an account to God for our own actions.
3) We do not have the right to judge another believer in the matter of celebrating holidays.
4) In any day that we consider “special,” our observance must be “to the Lord.”