Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays because we believe that such celebrations displease God. Although the Bible does not explicitly forbid celebrating birthdays, it does help us to reason on key features of these events and understand God’s view of them. Consider four of these aspects and related Bible principles.
Birthday celebrations have pagan roots. According to Funk & Wagnalls Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology, and Legend, these celebrations originated from the belief that on a person’s birthday, “evil spirits and influences have the opportunity to attack the celebrants” and that “the presence of friends and the expression of good wishes help to protect the celebrant.” The book The Lore of Birthdays says that in ancient times, birthday records were “essential for the casting of a horoscope” based on “the mystic science of astrology.” This book adds that “birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishes.”
The Bible, however, condemns the use of magic, divination, spiritism, or “anything like this.” (Deuteronomy 18:14; Galatians 5:19-21) In fact, one reason why God condemned the ancient city of Babylon was that its inhabitants practiced astrology, which is a form of divination. (Isaiah 47:11-15) Jehovah’s Witnesses are not preoccupied with the roots of every custom; yet when the Scriptures give such pointed indications, we do not ignore them.
The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays. The World Book Encyclopedia says that “they considered the celebration of anyone’s birth to be a pagan custom.” The Bible shows that the apostles and others who were taught directly by Jesus established a pattern that all Christians should follow.—2 Thessalonians 3:6.
The only commemoration that Christians are required to keep involves, not a birth, but a death—that of Jesus. (Luke 22:17-20) This should not be surprising, for the Bible says that “the day of death is better than the day of birth.” (Ecclesiastes 7:1) By the end of his life on earth, Jesus had made a good name with God, making the day of his death more important than the day of his birth.—Hebrews 1:4.
The Bible never refers to a servant of God celebrating a birthday. This is not simply an oversight, for it does record two birthday celebrations by those not serving God. However, both of those events are presented in a bad light.—Genesis 40:20-22; Mark 6:21-29.
Do the children of Witness parents feel deprived by not celebrating birthdays?
Like all good parents, Witnesses express love to their children throughout the year, including giving them gifts and having enjoyable gatherings. They try to follow the perfect example of God, who spontaneously gives good things to his children. (Matthew 7:11) Children of Witness parents do not feel deprived, as these comments show:
“It’s more fun getting a gift when you’re least expecting it.”—Tammy, age 12.
“Even though I don’t get presents on my birthday, my parents still buy me gifts on other occasions. I like it that way because I get surprised.”—Gregory, age 11.
“Do you think that ten minutes, a few cupcakes, and a song make a party? You should come to my house and see what a real party is like!”—Eric, age 6.