Birthdays Are They Pagan?

By Pastor G. Reckart

In an attempt to avoid paganism, there are many now trying to follow the doctrine of the Jehovah's Witnesses (JW) and the Muslims on the observance of birthdays.  The JW followers reject observing birthdays based upon two scriptural events:

The Scriptures:

1.) The Pharaoh of Egypt on his birthday killed his baker (Gen 40:20);

2.)King Herod on his birthday killed John the Baptist. (Matt 14:6).

Paganism or mental fantasy:
At issue here is if observing birthdays is of pagan origin?  Second, is there a Biblical doctrine AGAINST observing birthdays? Are many being subjected to mental fantasy and trying to make this into religious faith?

Is there a Biblical doctrine against observing birthdays?


No one has presented one.  All they have presented is a man-made theory.  They will not confess that this doctrine came from the Jehovah's Witnesses and Charles Taze Russell got it from his Muslim studies as a member of the Masonic lodge.

Did observing or counting birthdays come from paganism?


And anyone who claims they did needs to repent. The fact of counting years of living from one's birth is in the Bible before there was what we know as paganism.

I have been a student of the Bible since 1968, and although I learned of the JW doctrine that year, I was not convinced birthdays had a pagan origin based upon the two events of Pharaoh and Herod.  There was nothing in these passages that indicated birthdays were of pagan origin.  What was evident, is that two men, separated by nearly 1,600 years held their birthday as a special event to celebrate.  On the face of this reality, it became obvious these two men of record were observing a day associated with themselves and not an idol or pagan god.  Paganism has at its root, idolatrous religious practices and beliefs that are condemned in the Word of God.

For a teaching to be SOUND DOCTRINE, it must have a Biblical basis.  There is not one Scripture in the whole Bible that condemns birthdays, observing the annual day, or counting them.  Each and every time I have had to confront the accusations I am allowing paganism, I have asked for Bible and not one person yet has produced a single verse where the celebration is condemned.  Most often, the issue of observing birthdays is brought up by novices trying to go past the Pastor in his doctrine and standards, and then use it to cast doubt on his ministry.  I have seen people attack their Pastor, spread evil against him among the saints, and split churches over the one issue of observing birthdays.  The evil that was used to destroy a church was much more evil then observing birthdays.  But, once a person wants to destroy a Pastor any excuse will suffice, observing birthdays just one of them.

The Law:
There is nothing in the 613 precepts of the Law about birthdays.  If God does not specifically condemn or prohibit something, then man has no authority to create a law and bind it upon others for obedience and faith.  Man-made edicts and religious laws have no Scriptural authority. No one is obligated to follow or observe what is not found in the Word of God by principle or by direct reference.  There is nothing in the Word of God that by principle or direct reference condemns observing birthdays.

The New Testament:
There is not one verse of Scripture in the New Testament against observing birthdays.  Even when John was beheaded on Herod's birthday, the Church did not issue a warrant in form of doctrine to exclude those from the Church who observed theirs.

Candles, round cakes, etc.
I was given a silly piece of internet junk the other day that claimed birthdays were pagan because candles representing each year of a person's life was used to decorate the round cake.  In this anti-birthday article it was claimed that round birthday cakes were a symbol of the sun god.  I read through the print-out and was amused at how this was so neatly woven with falsehood and yet so many believe this kind of stuff has Divine sanction and blessing.  There is absolutely no historical record that candles on a birthday cake are of pagan origin.  Nothing that round birthday cakes represent the sun or the sun god. Most cakes are square or rectangle. These are all fantastic suppositions that have no historical foundation.  

God used seven candles in the Tabernacle and also twelve round loaves of bread on the Showbread Table.  It is true the Menorah was not actually made of wax candles, but they nevertheless were still representative of lamps of fire and are called candlesticks in the Word of God. While it is true, these seven candlesticks of fire are not used for birthday observance, we do not know in their full revelation what all they represent.  These are symbolic just as the Showbread represented something.  While I am not agreeing with the following I do believe it has some merit.  It is asserted that the Candlesticks and Showbread represent the two direct means of revelation:  1.) illumination by light (knowledge) as given directly by the Spirit; and 2.) understanding and revelation by the Word of God.  Thus, these two emblematic symbols represent the two different means God uses to reveal Truth.  The Spirit and the Word are the two methods God uses to fellowship with man. The Candlesticks are further thought to represent the seven days of creation wherein all things are created or born of the power of God.  Thus, the creation of a new man/woman in Christ is observed as being "born again", a specific day to be remembered and celebrated when God made us a new creation.  What has all this got to do with birthdays?  Really a lot!  It does go to show, there can be more to an issue then the cry paganism when it comes to the use of candles and what they might represent.  The fact that candles may be used to represent each year of a person's life from the time they were born, cannot be labeled paganism so easily.  It may be claimed, but has yet to be proven after 175 years of JW's trying to spread their false doctrine.  It is believed, and with good suspicion, that Charles Taze Russell, founder of the JWs, got his doctrine against observing birthdays from his association with the Masonic Lodge, and directly from Islamic influence.  Yes, there is an abundance of Islamic teaching veiled in many rituals of the Lodge.  Muslims do not believe in observing birthdays and devout Caliphs do not observe the birthday of Mohammed.  Russell had even more reason to crank out a doctrine against birthday celebration with his stand against Christmas, the alleged birthday of Jesus.  It was from this event on December 25 that Russell forged his doctrine against pagan holidays and birthdays, all in one neat package.  He could teach against the birthday of the Son of God and go back and pick up the ancient festival of the birthday of the sun, or sun god, and show where they were mixed.

Dies Natalis Invicti or Sol Invictus:
So far as we can determine, Dies Natalis Invicti was first celebrated in Rome by order of the Emperor Aurelian around 270AD. Attempts to connect this to the worship of Baal or to sun-god worship lacks proof.  Even Hislop presents a sloppy and undocumented account, painting his picture based upon his own theories.  Never once does he cite a source that backs up his claims.  He uses his own hand-drawn pictures and makes comparisions and from these convinces others he has done his research.  The fact is, he has not documented anything unless he can specifically make a tie and prove this with testimony.  The Dies Natalis Invicti or birth of the unconquered sun, is not a celebration of birthday at all!  What was celebrated in this pagan observance?

The entire annual celebration was centered around the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.  Meaning, of the 24 hours in a day, there was much more darkness then daylight.  The winter solstice was the shortest day of the year.  Ancient astronomers had already discovered there were two days of the year when there was exactly the same amount of daylight and darkness.  This was called an equinox day.  They discovered there was one day of the year where there was more darkness then light and a day when there was more light then darkness. The winter solstice was the day there was more darkness then daylight.  This day marked the reverse tilt of the earth on its axis when the days would slowly get longer and the nighttime shorter.  On this day, when the sun began to gain back its dominance of the 24 hour period, it was celebrated as the REBIRTH of the sun, not the sun's birthday.  Herein is something the anti-birthday people will not admit. Biblically, we know the birthday of the sun was NOT ON THE FIRST DAY OF THE CREATION WEEK!  God did indeed say:"let there be light" on the first day of the week, but this was not the birthday of the sun.  According to the Genesis account the sun was created on the fourth day of creation. The crying that has been going on about worship of the birthday of the sun is nothing but false tears.  If we compare the creation week with our present week, the first day called Sunday would not be the day of the sun, but rather Wednesday, the 4th day of the week would be called the day of the birth of the sun.  While this would be a weekly observance we are looking for the annual event this might be held.  It is unreasonable to think God created the sun and gave darkness more time of the day then the sun had.  It is far better to think that when God made the sun and the moon, he gave equal time to light and darkness.  Thus, a more accurate and reasonable time of the year to celebrate the birth or creation of the sun would be on one of the two equinox dates.

Whatever the case, the Latin observance of Dies Natalis Invicti was indeed replaced by the Catholic Church with the observance of the birth of Jesus.  It is true Christmas is a pagan holiday and the practice holds much of the ancient Saturnalia.  Other then the falsehood the birth of Jesus was on this date and used to replace a pagan holiday, where is there any truth that birthdays are pagan?  There is none!

Biblical observance of birthdays:

I have remarked to many over the years that counting how old a person is, starting from their birthday, is observing one's birth date. It does not mean you had cake and ice cream and received gifts when you were born.  That is true.  Nevertheless, to even count a birth date as an event to determine one's solar or sun-year of life, would be observing it is some manner or fashion.  The year is based upon the sun and its annual circuit through the universe.  We mark off these 365 days to make the complete circle and divide them into months and these into weeks and then into seven days.  Counting your birthdays is then observing the law of the universe that God set in motion when he said the two great lights would be for "signs, seasons, days, and years."  Now God said all this!  A year is a revolution of time.  I was doing some research into the Hebrew word "days" (yowm: Strong's #3117), many years ago and noticed that it not only described sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next sunset (evening and morning were the first day--sunset to sunset); but that certain days had annual significance. For instance, God commanded Passover to be observed on the exact same day of the lunar month every year.  Likewise with the day of the Feast of Pentecost and the day of Atonement.  Other annual days were commanded.  These future days of celebration and observance were tied to one day in history where God wrought a beautiful and wonderful thing.  These annual days were born from incidents to be remembered. Because of this, the Hebrew word "yowm" included days of "birth."  Go and look for yourself!

Hebrew 3117. yowm, yome; from an unused root mean. to be hot; a day (as the warm hours), whether lit. (from sunrise to sunset, or from one sunset to the next), or fig. (a space of time defined by an associated term), [often used adv.]:-age, + always, + chronicles, continually (-ance), daily, ([birth-], each, to) day, (now a, two) days (agone), + elder, X end, + evening, + (for) ever (-lasting, -more), X full, life, as (so) long as (, (even) now, + old, + outlived, + perpetually, presently, + remaineth, X required, season, X since, space, then, (process of) time, + as at other times, + in trouble, weather, (as) when, (a, the, within a) while (that), X whole (+ age), (full) year (-ly), + younger.

One thing cannot be denied: the ages of people in the Bible, beginning with Adam, are counted from the day of birth. This is observing birthdays no matter if there is candles, cake, and ice cream!  In addition to this, celebration on the very day of a child's birth would also carry the stigma of being pagan if we permit the same things done on this day, on the annual anniversary afterward.  Are there celebrations on the day a child is born in the Bible?

What of Eve when Cain was born?  She rejoiced at the birth of the first human being.  She spoke with praise and exaltation, saying: "I have gotten a man from the Lord" (Genesis 4:1).  She was excited about this new baby.  Excitement shows up in many places in the Word of God at the birth of a son or daughter.  What is being celebrated?  It is life!  God has shown his creative power in the life of a baby.  A baby's birthday is nothing more then remembrance of the day God gave life to the child.  Birthdays that do not hold in memory that God gave life is in my opinion disrespectful to God.  Even the life that we "now live" after conversion, we give credit and honor to God in the person of Jesus Messieh-Christ. On days when souls are born of the Spirit, there is a frenzy of worshippers rejoicing, shouting, and praising the Lord. This is an observance of a BIRTHDAY!  Our annual remembrance of that one day is not pagan and did not derive from paganism rooted in worship of idols and false gods.

The Birth of Jesus:
We know Jesus was not born in December and so the Christmas festivity celebrating this is false. We do know he was born in September. Do we have any record the Apostles observed the birthday of Jesus?  No, there is no record.  But there is also no record of them performing a wedding ceremony!  There is no record of them conducting a funeral.  There is no record of them concerning wedding anniversaries.  There is nothing about bridal or baby showers . And, there is no actual Church service that shows use of musical instruments.  There is nothing about indoor toilets, offering plates, or song books. There are no choirs, no fifth sunday dinner's on the ground, or women's meetings. There are no Church garage or yard sales, no fund raising for missions, no prison ministries for sinners, and no hospital visits for sinners who are sick. There are no home Bible studies for sinners. So far as we know, there were no church buildings owned by Christians.  They met in homes and in other places.  There were no baptismal tanks or other devices used for immersion of converts, but rather baptisms were done in streams, rivers, or natural ponds. There were no New Testament Bibles in the possession of the Saints or Church members.  Few had the Old Testament or could even afford to own one that was available.  The most they could do was look upon the scrolls in the Synagogue or Temple and hear them read there. There are no business owners in the New Testament among Church members, and so far as we know, no one who held employment working for another.  We could go on and on and list the things NOT FOUND in the practice of the Apostles and use the absence of these to place bondage upon Believers. To do so is insanity.  That is why we are enjoined to RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE WORD OF GOD.  This is not the work of novices. If there is evil, sin, or wrong in a thing we have no reservations, we will oppose it. But we must have Bible for the sin or evil that is in a thing.  What about the birth of Jesus, was there evil in this event?

Angels worshiped.  Yes, here is what the Word of God says about the angles on the birthday of Jesus:

"And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Heb 1:6).

Then again, on the very BIRTHDAY of Jesus here is what the Word of God declares:

"Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me" (Heb 10:5).

The very moment Jesus was born Angels worshipped, God spoke his Divine counsel. And the Son of God, who was to be the incarnation of God, could look back and say: "A BODY HAST THOU PREPARED ME."

Yes, a birthday can have its spiritual connection to God.  It was God who formed us in the womb of our mother, and he who caused us at the right moment in eternity to come forth into life.  The Creator of the body in the womb, gives a separate existence of life to the baby on its birthday.  The birthday is then the celebration of life.  Each annual day is one more year that has passed of this life.  We do not count birthdays after a person dies.  We end the count and so mark their tombstones (Born 00/00/0000 and Died 00/00/0000).  There are no birthdays celebrated after a person dies because they are rightly observed while living as an annual day of remembrance of the birthday.  There is only ONE BIRTHDAY!  All annual remembrances are just observing that ONE DAY!

The shepherds abiding in the field came to the birthday of Jesus.  Did they celebrate it every year after that? No, but they were there on his birthday.  We do know according to Job 20:15 it was a custom to carry the news of a child's birth to all who had a reason to know.

What does the Bible say against celebrating birthdays?  NOTHING!
Is it pagan to celebrate a birthday?  NO!
Has anyone proven birthday celebrations began with pagans? NO!
Will you go to hell for celebrating your birthday? NO!
Is it a sin to celebrate your New Birth in Christ on its annual day?  NO!

Is it a lie to teach the Bible is against celebrating birthdays?  YES!
Is it a lie that birthdays began within paganism?  YES!
Did people in the Bible count their birthdays?  YES!
Did Jews celebrate the 12th birthday of boys and girls?  YES! Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah
Did the parents of Jesus take him on his 12th birthday to Jerusalem and celebrate his Bar Mitzvah?  YES!
Did Levites on their 30th birthday celebrate becoming a priest?  YES!

Anyone who teaches celebrating a birthday is pagan is lying and for this, they will go to hell if they do not repent.

So, who will go to hell:  the person observing their birthday, or the person who claims birthdays are pagan?