Do Seventh-day Adventists Celebrate Holidays?

Wondering whether your Adventist classmate or coworker keeps the same holidays you do? Perhaps you want to include them in some festivities, but you also want to respect their beliefs. Thus, you’re unsure of how to navigate the holiday question. Will they accept your invitation to the office Christmas party?

Well, here’s the inside scoop!

Although some religious groups don’t celebrate holidays, Seventh-day Adventists typically do, including major holidays like Christmas, Easter, and Thanksgiving. They spend these days in a way that reflects biblical principles and family values.

Let’s look at what holidays Adventists celebrate and how they celebrate them. We’ll cover:

Let’s get started!

What holidays do Adventists celebrate?

Most Adventists keep major national and patriotic holidays. However, some might choose to avoid certain ones because they feel they conflict with their beliefs, priorities, or opinions. They might not have an issue with the holiday as a whole but may only observe certain aspects of it. For example, they might go to an Easter pageant but refrain from Easter egg hunts.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church doesn’t have an official statement about celebrating holidays. The Bible is also silent on this point, given that most modern holidays didn’t exist back then. It’s likely that it doesn’t address holidays directly because they don’t present a moral issue.

In other words, it’s not a sin to keep or disregard holidays. Instead, we follow our consciences and the principles found in the Bible to make these decisions.

We believe that all are free to decide for themselves what holidays to keep.

Unlike some Christian denominations, we don’t have our own religious holidays either.

And we don’t observe Hebrew religious festivals or holy feasts like Passover. This is because these occasions were specific to Mosaic law—meaning they were designed for the Israelite nation in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:43–49) and were connected with the system of animal sacrifices (Numbers 9:6–7). These sacrifices ultimately pointed forward to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Now that Jesus has died and resurrected to fulfill these symbols, Christians don’t need to sacrifice animals or keep the feasts.

That doesn’t stop us from enjoying modern holidays and cultural traditions, though.

So what is it that guides Adventists’ approach to holidays?

Even though the Bible doesn’t mention modern holidays, it gives us valuable principles to apply. It outlines behaviors and beliefs we should avoid (greed, spiritualism, etc.), and explains what attitudes we should strive toward (generosity, joy, thankfulness, etc.).

In the end, keeping holidays comes down to how it impacts:

  • Our beliefs
  • Our behavior
  • Our treatment of others

This is important because these areas affect our relationship with Christ and our influence on others. Our greatest desire is that every holiday we keep would draw us closer to Him and show His love.

Let’s dive into the specifics of each holiday and how Adventists apply this principle in celebrating them.

Christmas

A parent and child wearing Santa hats and sitting by a Christmas treeLike most families, the majority of Adventists celebrate Christmas. But unlike most, we don’t make it a special day to go to church (unless Christmas happens to fall on a Saturday, in which case we’d be going to church anyway).

Around Christmastime, pastors usually preach a message about the birth of Jesus. And church members often look for ways to serve the community. They might do this through food or toy drives or other types of community service.

Some Adventists—like some Christians in other denominations—don’t keep mainstream Christmas traditions because they’re concerned about their origins. Or they may also be concerned about falling into the greed and selfishness this holiday can inadvertently stir up.

Even so, few can deny that Christmas is a wonderful time to share the gospel!

For example, churches might put on a special Christmas program or concert during the month of December. This event gives church members an opportunity to invite their friends, family, and neighbors to church.

Although Jesus Christ wasn’t born on December 25th, Adventists take this holiday to reflect on His birth and what it means for us.1 It’s a time to be thankful and joyful and spend time with family—all of which uplift Christian principles.

Easter

Easter is another holiday most Adventists celebrate because it commemorates Jesus’ resurrection—a central theme in Adventism and Christianity. Though we celebrate the resurrection throughout the year, Easter is a great time to commemorate what Jesus did for us and share that with others.

Around Easter time, the pastor might preach a sermon about the resurrection. Churches may also organize outreach events like special worship services, music programs, or Easter plays.

As with Christmas, some Adventists are concerned about the origins of Easter and may avoid it for that reason. Others feel that people put more emphasis on the commercial aspects of the holiday than the resurrection of Jesus.

But each family celebrates differently and can choose their focus. They might eat dinner together, hold Easter egg hunts, or watch movies about Jesus.

In whatever way they celebrate, Adventists emphasize values such as being with family, remembering the promise of eternal life through Jesus’ death and resurrection, and telling others about this hope of the gospel.

Birthdays

Adventist children blowing out the candles on a birthday cakeBirthdays are a great way for Adventist churches to show they care about their members. They might list members’ birthdays in their announcements or sing “Happy Birthday” to them during a fellowship meal after church.

Some make the personal decision not to celebrate birthdays—perhaps because they don’t want the limelight on themselves or their children.

But the vast majority take birthdays for what they are—opportunities to celebrate life.

Whether we hold a party or simply open presents and eat cake with family, birthdays can be a way to thank God for another year of life and look back at how He’s helped us grow through the past year.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is widely accepted by North American Adventists, and pastors take it as an occasion to preach about the Christian principles of generosity, thankfulness, and contentment. Some churches have a food drive to ensure that everyone in the community can enjoy a happy Thanksgiving.

The main difference between a typical Thanksgiving celebration and an Adventist one is that many Adventists forego the turkey for vegetarian options.

During their tasty meal of choice, Adventist families might reflect on what they’re grateful for. They may go around the table and have each family member share.

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to remember God as the giver of every good gift.

Halloween

Two pumpkins carved into jack-o-lanterns for Halloween, a holiday that many Adventists don't celebrateMany Adventists might avoid Halloween because of its origins in spiritualism and communication with the dead.

Unlike many other holidays, Halloween, which comes from the Celtic celebration of the dead, still has this spiritualistic aspect.2 The Celts would wear frightening masks to ward off evil spirits—hence, the tradition of dressing up.3

These traditions present some biblical concerns for Adventists.

For one, the Bible warns against spiritualism and communication with the dead (Leviticus 20:6). Practices such as dressing up as dead figures, frightening people, and glorifying the occult don’t harmonize well with this principle.

Halloween also encourages the belief that the dead are conscious, though the Bible teaches the dead are unconscious and unable to interact with the living (Ecclesiastes 9:5).

Even so, some Adventists have found ways to safely enjoy Halloween and divert the focus to creativity, the autumn weather, tasty treats, and time with friends and family. Some may also use this day to reach out and share about Jesus—for example, passing out treats and little booklets of Bible stories for children.

But what about the majority who avoid Halloween altogether?

You don’t have to worry about them missing out!

Adventists often hold alternative events, such as fall festivals, on Halloween.

These festivals usually provide games, food, and fun for families. Children may dress up as their favorite characters from stories, rather than something scary or spiritualistic.

New Year’s Day

Adventists typically celebrate New Year’s Day, although we don’t emphasize it as much as Christmas.

While it’s easy to associate New Year’s Eve with wild parties, there are many enjoyable ways to ring in the new year that Adventists participate in. Usually, the whole point of parties is to get together with the people you care about, so that’s a common thing we do. We might play games, make some fun food, and stay up late to watch the ball drop in New York City. And don’t forget the sparkling grape juice (a tasty non-alcoholic drink)!

We might also create New Year’s resolutions.

Resolutions can be especially helpful because they encourage Christians to seek personal and spiritual improvement. These resolutions can vary from volunteering to deciding to go vegetarian. Although Christians are always trying to find ways to be more Christlike, this day can be a reminder to set positive goals and encourage one another.

Patriotic holidays

An American flag with fireworks in the background to represent the patriotic holidays Adventists celebrateAdventists often participate in patriotic holidays too. In the United States, these holidays would include the Fourth of July and Memorial Day.

It wouldn’t be unusual to find Adventists watching fireworks or having a Memorial Day barbeque. The major difference is that the barbeque will probably include turkey hot dogs or vegetarian options (such as veggie links, veggie dogs, etc.) as opposed to your standard pork-based hot dogs.

Adventists in other countries also take part in their countries’ respective independence days and patriotic holidays. They might eat traditional food and partake in parades or picnics.

Whatever the occasion, Adventists use these holidays to be with family and reflect on the beauty, joy, and freedoms they find in their respective countries.

Biblical principles guide Adventists in holiday-keeping

Adventist church members have the freedom to follow their consciences in choosing which holidays to keep and which ones not to keep.

Because God gives us this freedom of choice, we give that same freedom to others instead of guilting them about what holidays to celebrate or avoid.

It’s a personal decision. And by asking the Holy Spirit for guidance and seeking to honor God through our application of the Bible’s principles (1 Corinthians 10:31), we can be sure we’ll make the right decision.

Even though there are no holidays specific to Adventism, there is one “holiday” that God has created for every person to enjoy.

The awesome part?

It takes place every week.

Check out “What Do Seventh-day Adventists Believe About the Sabbath?” to learn about this special weekly Sabbath God created all for us!

[1] Pritchard, Ray, “Was Jesus Really Born on December 25th?” Christianity.com. []
[2] Hicks, J., Debra, “Should Christians Celebrate Halloween?”, Amazing Facts International, Accessed July 7, 2022 []
[3] Ibid. []

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