A friend recently shared that he plans to throw a New Year’s party. However, he was concerned that inviting his sister, an ardent Jehovah’s Witness, would offend her.
So he sought my opinion on whether Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate the New Year. We met for coffee, and based on my theology background, I helped him understand the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ stance on the New Year. Our conversation motivated me to reach people like you who wonder, “Do Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate New Year?”
Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate the New Year. According to their doctrine, doing so amounts to endorsing pagan worship. They base this belief on 2 Corinthians 6:14-17, where Paul warns against mingling Christianity and paganism. As such, Witnesses who celebrate New Year risk being disfellowshipped.
Join me in exploring why Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate New Year’s and what happens to those who do.
Should Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate New Year?
No. According to the Watchtower Society, Jehovah’s Witnesses shouldn’t celebrate New Year because of its pagan roots. The New Year traces its origins to the ancient Mesopotamian society, where it marked the end of the barley season.
During the New Year, people offered sacrifices to Marduk, the sky god. They also believed Marduk decided the people’s fate during these celebrations.
As such, they equate celebrating New Year’s with condoning false religious practices.
Additionally, they disapprove of the excesses that come with the season. In most communities, the New Year’s celebrations are marked with heavy drinking and partying.
Jehovah’s Witnesses disapprove of these practices since they violate the biblical principles of modesty and self-control as mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:2: “Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach.”
Therefore, Witnesses are forbidden from engaging in New Year’s celebrations to keep them from violating God’s word and their conscience.
Why don’t Jehovah’s Witnesses celebrate New Year?
As mentioned, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate the New Year because of the festival’s pagan roots. According to historians, the New Year festival dates back to 2000 B.C. in ancient Mesopotamia.
The Babylonians held an 11-day celebration during the March Equinox. This was marked by partying and making resolutions to curry the favor of their gods.
Later, in 46 BC, Julius Caesar proposed reforms to the calendar. In these reforms, he instituted January 1 as the New Year. He did so to honor Janus, the deity of new beginnings.
Jehovah’s Witnesses use this history to prohibit the celebration of New Year. They equate it to condoning false religious practices.
Furthermore, they forbid it based on the hedonistic practices associated with the New Year’s celebrations. According to them, most New Year’s celebrations involve partying and drinking.
Additionally, some communities have superstitious beliefs tied to the New Year. For instance, the Swedish celebrate the New Year by serving rice pudding with an almond.
They believe whoever finds the Almond will have a year of good luck. Jehovah’s Witnesses believe participating in these practices can incur God’s wrath as mentioned in Hebrews 3:12: “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
What happens if a Jehovah’s Witness celebrates the New Year?
A Jehovah’s Witness risks disfellowshipping if they celebrate the New Year. The Watchtower Society equates celebrating the New Year to apostasy.
They believe doing so endorses a pagan festival. The Watchtower defines apostasy as choosing to leave Jehovah’s Witness for another religion.
Additionally, they include celebrating pagan festivals, going against the Watchtower’s teachings, and practising Spiritism as apostate activities.
Disfellowshipped Witnesses are shunned by their friends and family for the duration of their punishment. They aren’t allowed into the fellowship until they are officially reinstated by the elders or Governing body.
According to the Watchtower, disfellowshipping protects the congregation and may restore the wrongdoer. They base this practice on 1 Corinthians 5:9-11, where Paul asked the Corinthian church to disassociate themselves from a member who was in an incestuous relationship.
Can Jehovah’s Witnesses say “Happy New Year?”
No. It’s unlikely that a Jehovah’s Witness will say “Happy New Year.” As mentioned, Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t celebrate New Year because of its pagan roots and hedonistic practices.
They equate celebrating New Year to apostasy since they believe doing so endorses pagan worship.
As such, it’s unlikely that a Jehovah’s Witness will initiate or respond to this New Year’s greeting. However, they’re encouraged to be respectful of other’s beliefs and practices.
As a Christian, I have always been passionate about sharing God’s word with young people. This inspired me to pursue a Certificate in Christian Education, an Undergraduate degree in Religious Studies, and a Graduate degree in Theology. My knowledge in school and experience from dealing with the youth made me an expert at discussing Christian-related topics. I feel privileged working as the Coordinator of the Christian Youth Ministry at Christian Faith Guide. You can read more about me on the about us page.