I tried to celebrate my birthday once when I was about six years old, after learning about non-Jehovah's Witnesses school kids who did celebrate. Yes — even after hearing my dad say, “Celebrating birthdays are ‘wrong’”. Later, when I was alone with my mom, I quietly asked her when my birthday was and she told me. Well, I secretly kept track of the days — and when my special day came, I made a pot of tea. (Yes, I drank tea from about the age of four). Mom had some home-made date squares on hand, so I put some out for everyone in my family. I explained, “It’s my birthday and I want to have a birthday party.” (I thought it was safe, since my dad had gone to visit one of the neighbors for the evening.)
Mom sat down at the table and calmly explained that she would have some tea with me, but it wasn’t a birthday party, because we weren’t allowed to celebrate birthdays. “Jehovah God would see and he would not be pleased,” she shook her head, disapprovingly, and pursed her lips, as she often did when expressing displeasure.
I sat at the table, lowered my head, utterly ashamed. I hoped God didn’t see me acting disobedient by celebrating my birthday.
So what justification could the Jehovah's Witnesses have for such a harsh rule? If anyone were to ask, they reasoned that it was a "pagan" celebration. Pagan seemed to be their buzz word that meant "bad people doing bad things that displeased God". The other justification given was that only two birthdays were mentioned in the Bible and that both of them resulted in a beheading event. Genesis 40:20 and Matthew 14:1-11 were the only two examples they offered as "proof".
Looking back, I figure the Jehovah's Witnesses had another strategy for producing such a harsh rule. The governing body decided that it was an effective way to isolate it's members from having social interactions with "worldly" people, meaning "anyone not a Jehovah's Witness". Isolation served as a useful tool to keep members from having friends outside their cloistered group. The isolation made it easier for elders to control their flock.
In hindsight, I also see how members are conditioned to accept what was heard from the platform at the Kingdom Hall, without ever checking for themselves or doing their own research into the reasonableness — or un-reasonableness — of such shallow counsel.
Earlier today I found a discussion going on among some ex-members of the religion in the comments of a YouTube video. An ex-member calling herself Smurf Girl explained how today was her birthday and she is celebrating it for the first time ever. She, as well as some others in the comments, put forth some scriptures to prove that worshipers of God did indeed celebrate birthdays. The one that really stood out to me was found at Job Chapter 1. Remember Job? The same Job that was tested by Satan and proved himself righteous in spite all the evil that befell him and his family. That one.
So, the scripture says that Job was blameless and turned away from all badness. Verse 4 states,
"And his sons went and held a banquet at the house of each one on his own day, and they sent and invited their three sisters to eat and drink with them. And it would occur that when the banquet days had gone round the circuit, Job would send and sanctify them." [Italics mine]
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Need I say more? Clearly, birthdays were celebrated by faithful ones of olden days.
I regularly celebrate my birthday since I left the Jehovah's Witness religion in the year 2000.
Feel free to have your say in the comments below.