Do Seventh-day Adventists Celebrate Easter?

Yes, many Seventh-day Adventists do celebrate Easter.

But celebrating Easter has less to do with Adventism and more to do with the individual decisions of church members.

The reason is that the Bible doesn’t specifically address Easter. And thus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church doesn’t have an official stance on it, either. Each member is left to make the decision of whether to observe it or not.

And many of us do choose to celebrate Easter because it gives us an opportunity to rejoice in Jesus’ resurrection and share that joy with others. It has a positive influence on those who celebrate it because it encourages family time and spreads the gospel message.

Learn more about our Easter celebrations with the following topics:

Let’s begin!

Why most Adventists celebrate Easter

A stone rolled away from an empty tomb to signify Christ's resurrection, which Adventists celebrate on Easter

Photo by Pisit Heng on Unsplash

Most Adventists celebrate Easter to commemorate the resurrection of Jesus Christ—a key aspect of Easter.

And to Adventists, Jesus’ resurrection is a big deal.

There are two things about this New Testament event that make it essential for Christians.

The Easter story tells us that:

1. Jesus died for our sins: Ever since Adam and Eve chose the knowledge of evil over following God out of love (Genesis 3), humans have been burdened by the weight of sin. By dying for our sins, Jesus took that weight and paid the penalty we deserved (1 Peter 2:24). He provided a way to free us from sin so that we could live a life full of His love.

 

2. Jesus rose from the dead: Because Jesus rose from the dead, He also “resurrects” us to a new life (Romans 6:4). We get a fresh start! His resurrection is a promise to us that He will literally resurrect His followers when He returns, and we’ll spend eternity with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:16–17).

Jesus Himself promised:

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25, NKJV).

These ideas are central to the Christian faith and the gospel. Without this belief in the resurrection of Christ, none of our other beliefs or practices would mean anything.

In fact, Paul says all our hope as Christians comes from Jesus’ resurrection:

“But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:13–14, NKJV).

And while Adventists celebrate this truth all year round, Easter gives us a special day to reflect on it and encourage others to think about what Jesus has done for them.

How Adventists celebrate Easter

Adventists have various ways to celebrate Easter, but, similar to other Protestant Christians, our focus usually centers around three things:

1. Reflecting on what Jesus has done for us
2. Telling the community about Jesus
3. Coming together as a family

Here are some more details on each point.

1. Reflecting on what Jesus has done for us

Bread and grape juice, food eaten during an Agape Feast to celebrate Jesus' death and resurrection

Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Most Adventist churches have a sermon about the Easter story or a special resurrection program on the Saturday before Easter. And although we don’t hold worship services on Sundays, many still host plays or concerts on that day.

Some Adventist universities hold these programs as events for their communities (like the SonRise Resurrection Pageant at Southern Adventist University or the Easter Passion Play at Andrews University).

Adventist congregations may also hold other events during the Easter weekend.

One such event is a Good Friday vespers.

(If you’re wondering what vespers is, it’s just an event Adventist churches often host on Friday evenings at the beginning of the Sabbath. It usually involves gathering for prayer, singing, and Scripture reading.)

Good Friday vespers are special because they only happen once every year. Church members will typically meet for a light dinner, read passages in the New Testament about Jesus’ death and resurrection, and participate in a foot washing service and Communion (symbols of cleansing and accepting Jesus’ death on the cross).

A similar event is an Agape Feast (literally “love feast”), which reflects on the meal Jesus shared with His disciples before His death. This event may also integrate foot washing and Communion.

These activities bring the church together as we remember Christ’s sacrifice.

2. Telling the community about Jesus

Since so many people celebrate Easter, Adventists also see this holiday as a great opportunity to share the gospel. We do this through sermons, booklets, pageants, and plays.

And more practical ways too, such as serving the community through food drives.

When we approach Easter this way, it isn’t just a good reminder to Christians about the hope of salvation. It’s a blessing to the whole neighborhood!

3. Coming together as a family

The activities will look different for every family. Some might decide to have a special dinner, watch Bible movies about the resurrection, or go on an Easter egg hunt together.

In all of it, we try to avoid getting caught up in commercialism.

Though some of us may take our children to buy baskets and go on egg hunts, we emphasize that Easter isn’t all about gifts, candy, or the Easter Bunny.

We’re happy to give our children gifts, but at the same time, we encourage them to focus on the purpose of Easter (remembering the resurrection of Jesus)—not the stuff they get out of it. We want them to think about ways they can share their happiness and gifts with others.

Even though Adventists have many enjoyable ways of celebrating Easter, some people have assumed we avoid the holiday altogether. Let’s learn why.

Why some people think Adventists don’t celebrate Easter

Here are the most common reasons:

1) Because Adventists don’t hold a worship service on Easter Sunday
2) Because we live by the Bible, and the Bible doesn’t mention Easter
3) Because Easter has pagan undertones

The following sections go deeper into why these reasons don’t necessarily affect our celebration of the resurrection when Easter comes around each year.

Because they don’t hold a worship service on Easter Sunday

It’s true that Adventists don’t hold a Sunday church service. We have our church services on Saturdays because we believe God set aside the seventh day as a holy day of worship (Genesis 2:2–3).

Thus, even on Easter weekend, we hold our formal worship service on Saturday rather than Sunday—the first day of the week.

However, having our worship service on Saturday doesn’t stop us from appreciating how Easter reminds us of Jesus and His resurrection.

Because the Bible doesn’t mention Easter

The Adventist Church is a Protestant Christian denomination that lives by sola scriptura (the Bible alone). Thus, people assume we only do things that are written in the Bible.

But the truth is, the Bible doesn’t give explicit instructions for many things, especially things dealing with modern life.

This means we have to approach the Bible with common sense and humility, asking God to guide our decisions. It starts with differentiating commands from principles. The Bible does contain clear commands, like the Ten Commandments. But it also provides principles that require us to use wisdom to apply them to our lives today.

Take cars, for instance.

The Bible never mentions them, and there’s no command to ride in a car. But driving one doesn’t violate any biblical principles, and it’s a practical means of travel.

Easter works the same way. Since there is no direct mention of it in Scripture, we have to evaluate it by biblical principles.

In other words, we must ask ourselves if it helps or hinders our Christian experience.

Is it helping us become better Christians and neighbors? Or is it leading us to become more materialistic and self-focused? The answer may be different depending on the individual.

Because Easter has pagan undertones

Some believe Easter should not be celebrated because it encourages materialism and has roots in paganism.

The word Easter is translated from Eostre, which is the name of a pagan goddess.1 Many different mythologies speak of fertility goddesses and include the same symbols people associate with Easter, like eggs and rabbits.2

But the majority of Adventists celebrate Easter because they believe it is far more beneficial than it is harmful. We’ve adopted the philosophy of carefully discerning ways to reach others without compromising truth.

And we generally don’t believe something is inherently pagan or evil just because it has pagan roots.

Most of the time, it isn’t the thing itself that’s wrong but how we use it.

Think of money. The Bible tells us that the love of money is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10). But money itself is not evil; rather, it can be used in an evil, greedy way.

Similarly, Easter in and of itself is not evil. But if we were still celebrating it to worship pagan deities, it would be.

Easter is full of pagan symbols, but these symbols have changed over time—they no longer mean what they used to. The same is true of the names we have for the planets or days of the week. They were all named after pagan deities, but just because we call them those names doesn’t mean we worship those gods.

In the end, there’s no Adventist doctrine regarding the observance of Easter. Celebrating Easter doesn’t make you any more or less of an Adventist.

Instead, it’s up to each individual to decide whether to do so.

But wait, now that you know how Adventists celebrate Easter, don’t you want to know how Adventists feel about Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Halloween?

We thought you might!

  1. Landau, Brent, “Why Easter Is Called Easter, and Other Little-Known Facts About the Holiday,” The Conversation, April 11, 2017. []
  2. “Easter Symbols and Traditions,” History.com, April 13, 2022. []

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