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Holidays—Which Ones Should Christians Observe or Not Observe?

Occasionally I come across believers—face to face or in print—who rant and rave over holidays. They insist that certain holidays shouldn’t be celebrated by genuine Christians and that certain others should be observed. For instance, they’ll decry the somewhat dubious origins of, say, Christmas and Easter and lambaste those who celebrate these holidays while insisting that the Jewish festivals and the Sabbath must be strictly observed in order to please God.

A good example of how annoying this can be took place last St. Patrick’s Day when my wife, Carol, had the audacity to wear a green jacket to work with a shamrock pin. A Christian coworker lambasted her for following a supposedly “pagan” holiday. Not being one to get into strife, particularly over minor issues, sweetie Carol informed the coworker that she was Irish. The woman responded, “Well, I’m German, should I celebrate Hitler?”

Irksome confrontations like this are unnecessary and irrelevant in light of what God’s Word says on the topic of holidays. Since Christians are under the New Testament — the New Covenant, which means new contract with God — I encourage believers to embrace what the New Testament teaches on holidays. Notice what it says:

Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

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. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:1-6

The apostle Paul brings up two “disputable matters” in this passage: In verse 2 he mentions the issue of eating everything or being a vegetarian; in verse 5 in mentions how some consider certain days holy—i.e. “holidays”—while others consider every day the same. The person who has the fuller knowledge and understanding on the issue is “strong” while the person with lesser revelation is “weak” (see 15:1).

While the issue of holidays is not necessarily a matter of being “strong” or “weak” because it’s often simply an issue of preference, a person’s preference could be the result of fuller knowledge, which means that person is “strong.” The person who acts out of lesser knowledge or ignorance, by contrast, is “weak.”

Some believers celebrate Christmas and Easter because these days represent the birth and resurrection of Christ to them and I know others who don’t celebrate them for one reason or another or, at least, are indifferent. It’s a matter of preference or opinion, regardless of one’s reasons. As Paul taught, “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.”

“Accept One Another… in Order to Bring Praise to God”

Regardless, the one who has the fuller understanding is not to look down on the one with the lesser because it would be arrogant. Similarly, the one with the lesser revelation must not condemn the one with the fuller. You could insert any non-essential doctrine or issue into this scenario and it would apply.

Paul concluded the matter with these powerful words:

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

Romans 15:7

Whether someone is “strong” with fuller revelation or “weak” with lesser, we are to accept one another just as Christ accepted us! Furthermore, doing this brings praise to God! Do you want to bring praise to God? Then be sure to warmly accept brothers and sisters in the Lord who disagree with you on non-essential matters.

Nowhere does the Bible say we are to cancel relationships due to non-essential doctrines or issues, like which holidays a believer observes or doesn’t observe. On the contrary, we’re to accept one another.

The only just reasons for breaking relations with other believers or so-called believers are:

  1. If the person advocates false teaching on essential matters, like the Lordship of Christ or the importance of keeping in repentance;
  2. if the individual refuses to repent of a legitimate transgression (Matthew 18:15-17); or…
  3. if the person is incorrigibly contentious or fleshly (Romans 16:17-18 & 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

It’s important to keep in mind, however, that in all these cases the offending individual should be prayed for and should receive the warm hand of fellowship if s/he makes a 180 at some point, like the fornicator who repented and was welcomed back into the Corinth church (2 Corinthians 2:6-11).

In any event, when you see brothers or sisters in the Lord who are quick to cease fellowship over non-essential issues, including holidays, you can be sure they’re infected by rigid sectarianism. It’s a form of legalism. It’s sad because this needlessly separates Christians and, just as bad, limits the lives of those with lesser revelation.

What Is the “Fuller Knowledge” on Holidays?

To recap, the Bible says that the person who has the fuller knowledge and understanding on an issue is “strong” while the person with lesser revelation is “weak.” So, you might be wondering, what is the “fuller knowledge” on holidays for the New Testament believer? Verses 5-6 plainly show us:

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. Whoever eats meat does so to the Lord, for they give thanks to God; and whoever abstains does so to the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Romans 14:5-6

This passage offers additional insight:

Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17 

The Jewish festivals, the New Moon celebration and the Sabbath were mere shadows of what was to come—Jesus Christ! The dietary laws, feast days and holy days that God commanded in the Old Testament—including the Sabbath—pictured the person and work of the coming Messiah. Jesus carried out all these types through his ministry. Thus the need to observe them has ceased.

“A shadow” means a foreshadow, testifying to the reality to come. The real thing, however, is not the shadow. Notice what verse 18 goes on to say:

Do not let anyone who delights in false humility and the worship of angels disqualify you. Such a person also goes into great detail about what they have seen; they are puffed up with idle notions by their unspiritual mind.

Colossians 2:18

Those who walk in the shadow of things to come rather than the reality of Christ have an “unspiritual mind,” which means fleshly. This includes strict Sabbath-keepers. They’re still trying to serve God from the perspective of the flesh no matter what staunch religious airs they put on.

Simply put, the Jewish festivals, the New Moon celebration and the Sabbath belong to the Old Covenant that Israel had with the LORD and have been done away. Let’s consider a few relevant passages:

For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also.

Hebrews 7:12

In our New Covenant Jesus Christ is our high priest (Hebrews 2:17 & 4:14). The priesthood has changed and thus the law must also be changed, which includes ceremonial laws like the Jewish festivals, the New Moon celebration and the Sabbath, which have been done away:

They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: “See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.” But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises

13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Hebrews 8:5-6,13

What about the moral law, how has it changed? As shown above, the New Covenant that believers have with God is superior to the Old Covenant that the Israelites had. The New Covenant is superior because we’ve been released from the law—the Torah—and serve in the new way of the Spirit wherein we receive spiritual regeneration (Ephesians 4:22-24), not in the Old Covenant way of the written code, i.e. the law. This is great because “the letter [the law] kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Repentance and faith are the conditions for entering into the New Covenant (Acts 20:21 & Hebrews 6:1) and the terms are “faith working through love,” which means faith is activated by love (Galatians 5:6 Amplified). When we walk out of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-7) we walk out of faith and thus our faith won’t work, which isn’t good because faith is the foundation of our covenant. Why is “faith working through love” so important? Because love is the fulfillment of the moral law, as Jesus points out here:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:35-40

All the Old Testament moral laws can be condensed into two basic rules with three applications: LOVE GOD & LOVE PEOPLE as you LOVE YOURSELF. When you do this you automatically fulfill all the moral law. By the way, loving others means walking in tough love when necessary just as much as it means walking in gentle love. See this teaching for details. This “law of love” automatically fulfills all the moral law of the Old Testament and is one-in-the-same as the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 & 1 Corinthians 9:21).

Closing Word

Now you know what the New Testament teaches about holidays and I hope it sets you free (John 8:31-32). If you come across legalists who rant and rave that “Christians can celebrate this and that holiday but not this or that holiday” you can disregard their words as the result of lesser knowledge or ignorance; or perhaps the infection of legalism. But continue to accept them, pray for them, walk in love with them and correct them through God’s Word when appropriate, which is a form of tough love..

Although some religious holidays have somewhat dubious origins, observing them or not is a matter that comes down to a person’s current perception and the preference thereof. For example, Christmas may be about materialism to one person — which isn’t good — and it may be about a celebration of Christ and the gift of giving to another — which is good; Easter may be about colored eggs and hedonistic spring vacation to one person — which isn’t good — and about the resurrection of Christ and spiritual regeneration to another — which is good. This is why Paul encouraged Christians to resist making judgments about fellow believers and the days they choose to celebrate as holidays (Romans 14:5-8 & Colossians 2:16).

Related Topics:

Law (Torah) and the Believer

Legalism — Understanding its Many Forms

Sabbath — What is it? Should Believers Observe It?

Law of Christ—What is It?

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