Somehow, a couple of days ago, it occurred to me to wonder whether Jehovah’s Witnesses are discouraged from celebrating Thanksgiving, given the distance they seek to maintain from institutions of nationalism. I knew that they object to the pagan roots of Christmas, Easter, and birthdays–but what about Thanksgiving?
(Quick tangent: The first time I personally encountered Jehovah’s Witnesses was as a teenager while visiting relatives in California for Thanksgiving. Two Witnesses, African American women in perhaps their sixties, knocked on the door, taking advantage of the holiday to find people at home.)
I couldn’t find anything addressing this question on the Watch Tower Society’s official website. But here are some relevant texts I discovered:
* An independent apologist gives three reasons why Witnesses don’t/shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving: (1) real Christians give thanks every day, not just once a year; (2) harvest celebrations have pagan origins; (3) Thanksgiving’s founders, in the 1860s, intended to fuse American patriotism and Christian piety, to which Witnesses object.
* A short article by ex-Witnesses provides several quotations from a 1976 Watchtower article that articulates points 1 and 2, above.
* An “etiquette expert” at Belief.Net advises that your Witness neighbors probably wouldn’t be offended by an invitation to Thanksgiving dinner, even if they declined.
* A self-identified “apostate” recounts his first Thanksgiving dinner in this YouTube video: