Some holidays are national celebrations, and others have religious roots. Are all Christian holidays the same? Are some really made holy by God?
For many people, a holiday is just a welcome day off from work to be with friends and family. But some days seem to be more significant than others, depending on culture, religion and family values. The Bible actually identifies some days as holy days commanded by God to be observed. Could it really make that much difference which Christian holidays we observe?
There are two basic kinds of holidays, national or religious. In the United States, good examples of the two types would be the Fourth of July and Christmas. The French celebrate Bastille Day and the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. No doubt there are many holidays and holy days around the world of which most of us are completely unaware.
Does it make any difference which days we keep?
National or religious holidays?
We celebrate our national holidays because of historic national events (such as America’s Independence Day, Memorial Day or Labor Day). This is simply a matter of observing the day because some national events are significant, and many businesses often close down that day. You have a day at home to relax or take the family on a picnic or go visit relatives.
But what about religious holidays?
Canada and the United States both observe a national Thanksgiving Day. Many Britons take part in a yearly thanksgiving harvest festival. Such celebrations have religious overtones, in that we take time to give thanks to our Creator for His blessings. Jews observe Purim and Hanukkah as both national and religious holidays. For more information about the observance of these days, please read our article: “Thanksgiving, Purim and Hanukkah.”
There are many religious holidays that man has set up in his desire to worship. If, however, there is a God who has established days as “holy,” then we should keep those above all others. It does make a difference which Christian holidays we keep if obeying God is important to us.
Saturday or Sunday: Does it make a difference?
Only God has authority to make a day “holy,” so why have people established days of worship based on their own ideas or traditions? For example, believe it or not, even the common observance of Sunday as the day of worship was established by the Roman Church, not the authority of the Bible (which clearly commands Saturday as the Sabbath).
Notice some remarkable admissions regarding this:
- A Catholic Church newsletter stated, “Perhaps the boldest thing, the most revolutionary change the Church ever did, happened in the first century. The holy day, the Sabbath, was changed from Saturday to Sunday. ‘The Day of the Lord’ [dies domini] was chosen, not from any direction noted in the Scriptures, but from the Church’s sense of its own power” (Catherine Catholic Church Sentinel, Algonac, Michigan, May 21, 1995).
- “Sunday is a Catholic institution and its claim to observance can be defended only on Catholic principles. … From beginning to end of Scripture there is not a single passage that warrants the transfer of weekly public worship from the last day of the week to the first” (Catholic Press, Sydney, Australia, August 1900).
- “Nowhere in the Bible do we find that Christ or the Apostles ordered that the Sabbath be changed from Saturday to Sunday. We have the commandment of God given to Moses to keep holy the Sabbath day, that is the 7th day of the week, Saturday. Today most Christians keep Sunday because it has been revealed to us by the [Roman Catholic] church outside the Bible” (“To Tell You the Truth,” The Catholic Virginian, Oct. 3, 1947, p. 9).
Rather startling admissions, right? But does it make any difference which days we keep? The Bible says that Jesus Christ is “Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8). And the Fourth Commandment says we are to “remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8). Clearly it matters to God whether or not we keep His Sabbath.
Breaking the Sabbath was one of the main reasons the ancient Israelites went into captivity. Notice: “Notwithstanding, the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, and were not careful to observe My judgments, ‘which, if a man does, he shall live by them’; but they profaned My Sabbaths [note the plural, including other holy days God established]. Then I said I would pour out My fury on them and fulfill My anger against them in the wilderness” (Ezekiel 20:21).
There are several references in the Bible to God’s anger regarding the profaning of the days He established as holy time.There are several references in the Bible to God’s anger regarding the profaning of the days He established as holy time. Try doing a word search in an online Bible on the words “profane Sabbath” and note the results.
So which days are holy according to the Bible?
Should we be surprised if God also ordained certain annual religious holy days to be celebrated?
“And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “The feasts of the LORD, which you shall proclaim to be holy convocations, these are My feasts”’” (Leviticus 23:1-2). So God has implemented days on which we are to observe “holy” convocations. He lists them for us:
- The Feast of Unleavened Bread (first and seventh days).
- The Feast of Trumpets.
- The Day of Atonement.
- The Feast of Tabernacles (first day).
- The Last Great Day (also called the Eighth Day).
God clearly initiated these holy day observances, but where do we find He said it was no longer necessary to observe them? There is no such passage in the Bible! Rather, we find the New Testament Church observing these same holy days (Acts 18:21; 1 Corinthians 5:8; for more on this, see “Christian Festivals”).
On the other hand, there is no biblical record of these early Christians observing such Christian holidays as Easter and Christmas. The early New Testament Church did not celebrate them!
In reality, most religious holidays around the world have their origin in ancient polytheistic cultures. Today few people care if their observances have such pagan origins. Do you?
Does God really care what I do?
Does it matter to God? Can we decide for ourselves which days to keep holy?
Deuteronomy 12:30-31 states: “Take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way.”
That’s a pretty clear instruction. If you care about what God says, believe He has authority over your life and know you should obey Him, don’t you think you should examine what the Bible really says about which Christian holidays are holy days?
For additional information, read the articles “Biblical Festivals: Does God Want Us to Celebrate Them? Why?” “Holy Days vs. Holidays” and “Holy Days: Who Makes Them Holy?”
You will also want to watch our video series “Feasts of the Lord.” This series of 10 short videos explores God’s plan and what it means for you.