Let me begin by saying that I have learned over the years that discussing Easter or Christmas during the weeks before and shortly after those times – it’s never fruitful. It tends to cause contention and anger. It also sometimes makes those who believe in celebrating those days dig their heels in deep and become defensive about even the kindest of words. No matter how hard we try to explain the Biblical truth with kindness and love, it is not often taken very well. My prayer now is that people will just hear our explanation with an open heart and mind, and then test it for themselves in scripture.
That is why I am talking to you now – off-season, so to speak. First let me say, I am not trying to “convert” you or change your mind. If you personally choose to continue celebrating Easter or Christmas, that is your choice. I am just here to explain why we choose not to – for this conversation I am going to focus mostly on Easter, and yet Christmas is easily interchangeable with Easter.
A lot of family and friends ask (or wonder but don’t want to ask): why don’t you celebrate Easter any longer? Especially since we profess to be followers of the Bible and believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah. We often get the question, “Are you Jewish now?” The real question I know people are asking is: are we practicing JUDAISM.
The answer to that question is: No. We have not converted to either Judaism or Messianic Judaism. Both of those religions are filled with many beautiful traditions, as are many Christian denominations. And yet, all forms of Judaism and all forms of Christianity are filled with false, man-made traditions that contradict the Bible. Many of these man-made traditions are just invented from nothing, while others are copied from pagan traditions.
Our reasons for not celebrating Easter can be summed up with a simple comparison because it boils down to the difference between:
A man-made holiday - Easter, Including Maundy Thursday and Lent
The God-made HOLY days - Spring Feasts - These include Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, then after counting 49 weeks, Shavuot (AKA Pentecost).
If you have run into others who believe similar to us, then you may have heard about all the pagan traditions tied to Easter. I could go into great detail on all of those, too, but I would rather show you from a biblical perspective as to why we choose to celebrate the Biblical Feast Days. So, for this conversation, let’s talk about what the Bible says bout Yahweh's Feasts.
Passover and Unleavened Bread are foreshadows of Christ. Yeshua celebrated Passover, he WAS the Passover Lamb. He was not the Easter Bunny. This may sound silly, and yet there are those who try to liken Yeshua to the Easter bunny.
The Easter Bunny was brought to the United States from, most likely, Germany sometime during the 1700’s. It is nothing more than a tradition to entertain children. Sadly, both the rabbit, an ancient sign of fertility, and the coloured eggs can be traced to deep pagan origins. They are not biblical symbols or scriptural “celebrations” in any way. In these modern times, people try to justify both as pretty and cute, even claiming they continue these traditions “for the children.” My question would be, what are you then teaching the children about pagan tradition versus biblical tradition?
Some believers and even churches have tried to rationalize Easter bunnies and eggs by likening them to Yeshua. Taking the characteristics of Yeshua and trying to correlate them with those of the bunny or the egg. For example, making the egg symbolize the empty tomb on resurrection day, or claiming it symbolizes the new life of Resurrection. The bunny is soft and gentle, just as Yeshua’s character is loving, kind and gentle. This is merely taking something unbiblical and applying attributes to it in an effort to justify using it for celebration and tradition.
The bunny, eggs and chocolate have become well-known symbols of Easter through commercialization over the last 60 years or so in the U.S. These have all but replaced Jesus in the Passover, crucifixion and resurrection celebration. All of the focus has been taken from Christ and placed on pagan symbols, then turned to allegedly symbolize Christ again. I would have to ask, are people trying to “make themselves feel better” by bringing the objects full circle to be “types of Christ” when they truly are not?
I am not fault finding here, I am merely asking you to think about it for a time and examine it from a biblical perspective, just as we have done for ourselves. We have been there and done that, too: We raised our children to participate in all those annual traditions, bought baskets and stuffed rabbits, even ate the Easter Ham. Something changed in us, though, when we started to study the scriptures more in depth together, and we recognized there were things that we had not seen before in scripture.
~~ Yahweh says in the Old Testament that we are to celebrate the feast days “forever” – believers claim that he does not change; He is the same yesterday today and forever. Yet then will claim He changed by saying He did not mean “forever”, and we are no longer obliged to follow the commandments of His Feast Days. Some proclaim, “the law is dead” and those commandments no longer apply. Yet, while loudly stating we no longer need to follow those commandments, they will declare we MUST follow others such as tithe, or the list of the Ten Commandments.
~~ We are taught that we should be following worldly, man-made traditions of Easter, instead of the biblical truths of Passover (Exodus 12 ), Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days (Exodus 12, Leviticus 23; Numbers 28; Deuteronomy 16), and First Fruits. These Holy Days happen in the Spring and are what ought to be honored in His name, as He tells us to do – NOT man-made traditions. Especially those which contain blatant pagan elements. We should even be counting the Omer for 49 days, finally finishing out with Shavuot (Pentecost – Leviticus 23) shortly before the summer season starts.
These are beautiful times of celebration, feasts, prayer, gatherings, and honoring Yahweh. Imagine taking His Word and implementing family events which include celebration, a HUGE dinner, socializing and even prayer while honoring Yahweh. You could attend “church,” also called assembly. The funny thing about all of this is that there are families doing these same activities on Easter Sunday – they go to church, then have a big feast together with family and sometimes friends. Many have prayer before they eat, and dedicate their meal to God, thanking Yeshua for His sacrifices for us. Sounds a lot like what we are commanded to do with His Feast Days.
Of course, Yeshua (Jesus) would NOT have been eating HAM – just to clarify that little detail. You see, Yeshua ate only clean meats (Leviticus 11) because he was Torah observant. And THAT is a topic for another day!
How we know what to do during the Holy days is simple - Scripture tells us how to celebrate each one. Now, I will say that many of the details we cannot do because they are to be done where Yahweh places His name, which in ancient times was the Temple. There are also things that are commanded to be done by Levite priests, which we do not currently have available to serve because there is no Temple, and there are details such as sacrifices which are no longer necessary because of Yeshua’s ultimate sacrifice. Yet scripture still tells us to honor the Feast Days in memorial.
What does it mean to honor them in memorial? It means we can do the best as we can to follow the commandments for the Feast Days and share those teachings with our families and friends. For example, the Passover and Unleavened Bread of the Exodus as commanded in chapter 12, verse 14 “This day shall be to you for a memorial, and you shall keep it a feast to Yahweh: throughout your generations you shall keep it a feast by an ordinance forever.” (WEB) Do you see now why we choose to celebrate this time in honor of the sacrifices of Yeshua? We follow as many of the directions found in scripture as we can.
Here I would like to mention that for the Biblical Feast Days we follow the Hillel II calendar (The Hebrew Calendar). We have studied this topic of calendaring in depth and have published a free e-book on the topic that explains our reasons why. Yahweh has an order for things and a line of authority, and that includes the calendar. He has appointed people in the past to set those things in place, and the last calendar which His appointed authorities sanctioned is the Hillel II.
As the Feast Days fall on the calendar, we can incorporate these details in memorial celebrations:
For the Day of Passover:
- Clean out all the leaven from you home before sundown. (Exodus 12:15) There is a lot of tradition and confusion about what leaven is. It is yeast, yeast bread, or any foods that contain yeast. This would include sourdough. For more on this you can read our blog on TorahForWomen.com, titled “Pesach Panic!” It is actually very simple – just don’t bake or buy any yeast or products that use yeast shortly before and during Passover and Unleavened Bread.
There are a lot of man-made traditions wrapped around Passover, such as the Seder and Seder Plate, reading the Haggadah which contains the story of the Exodus, to give a few examples. This is merely tradition establish by the rabbis and Judaism. Most of these are not required or commanded, and most are not even in the bible.
In our home, we have an opening prayer which begins the Feast of Unleavened Bread, talk of the Exodus, and have a wonderful feast. Often the meal includes lamb, and always includes unleavened breads, and bitter herbs. Sometimes this unleavened bread IS manufactured matzah, other times we make traditional mid-East unleavened breads like lefse or naan, which go wonderfully with roasted lamb!
For Unleavened Bread:
- The first and seventh days are Sabbaths – holy convocations, where you should try to gather together with others and worship. This might be difficult if the days fall on weekdays and the rest of family and friends do not follow the Feast Days. You may need to find like minded people to celebrate with, and yet that too, can be difficult at times depending on where you live. We do the best we can and often find it is just the two of us. There are some congregations which broadcast online, and we have been known to participate with their assembly during the broadcasts.
- We are to do NO servile work – this means your job, and other work that your normally do. This would include yard work, house cleaning, laundry, and heavy work like this. You are allowed to cook on these two days, that which needs to be prepared so that feasts may be served.
- We are to eat unleavened bread for 7 days. Many believe you have to buy certified matzah from a certified Kosher manufacturer. Yet, honestly, there are so many wonderful recipes for different ethnic breads that are completely unleavened: naan, lefse breads, tortillas (the ones without yeast added!), as well as other varieties. You do not need to look for 1001 ways to serve matzah crackers for Passover – although you will find at least that many out there!
- Begin counting the omer: each day you simply call out how many days have passed as you approach day 50 and the Feast of Shavuot.
For First Fruits:
- There really are not any actions that we can do for this Feast because the act of waving the omer of harvest before Yahweh is to be done at the Temple. It is nice to remember this day, though, in honor of the time that His people entered the promised land. (Exodus 23:14-19; Leviticus 23) If you have a garden and are harvesting foods already from your garden by this time, it is especially nice to share the first fruits with others in your family or neighborhood, and to praise Yahweh for that blessing of fruits from your own soil and the literal fruits of your labors.
We simply acknowledge that it has taken place, and praise Yahweh for these blessings. First Fruits memorializes the time when Joshua entered the promised land with the Israelites and they were commanded to honor Yahweh with the first fruits of the land.
Shavuot is found in Deuteronomy 16:9-12, KJV Seven weeks shalt thou number unto thee: begin to number the seven weeks from such time as thou beginnest to put the sickle to the corn. And thou shalt keep the feast of weeks unto the LORD thy God with a tribute of a freewill offering of thine hand, which thou shalt give unto the LORD thy God, according as the LORD thy God hath blessed thee: And thou shalt rejoice before the LORD thy God, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite that is within thy gates, and the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are among you, in the place which the LORD thy God hath chosen to place his name there. And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in Egypt: and thou shalt observe and do these statutes.
The Bible does say that for three feasts a year the men are to travel to Jerusalem for these special times – Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. This is not always feasible for every family – the financial burden can be overwhelming for someone who lives in the U.S. or another nation. The greatest blessing that we have been given is the gift of Yahweh’s grace upon us through Yeshua. We are not under the curse of the law (Deuteronomy 28:15-68), so in a case where we can not accomplish the commandments, we can ask for forgiveness and know that Yahweh is kind and loving. We are saved through Yeshua and through him alone – our works (following the commandments) do not grant us salvation. But, because we have been saved, we seek after holiness and want to follow his word which leads us to follow His commandments as a part of our journey.
This is usually about the time someone may ask, “Well, you say you won’t celebrate ‘man-made holidays,’ but do you still celebrate Memorial Day? Fourth of July? Mother’s and Father’s Days? Those are man-made celebrations too.” They are not wrong, Yes, these are man-made traditions and celebrations. The key difference between those man-made celebrations and the celebrations of Easter and even Christmas is that these two holidays are man-made traditions which contain pagan elements and are done in the name of Jesus, in honor of God. Those other holidays are NOT done in Yahweh’s name. For this we turn to the scriptures where Yahweh (God) Warned his people against doing what the pagans did and using it to honor HIS NAME.
Leviticus 18:1-5 WEB Yahweh said to Moses, "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, 'I am Yahweh your God. You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived: and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you; neither shall you walk in their statutes. You shall do my ordinances, and you shall keep my statutes, and walk in them: I am Yahweh your God. You shall therefore keep my statutes and my ordinances; which if a man does, he shall live in them: I am Yahweh.
You see, we are told to not worship Yahweh in the way the pagans did in ancient times, and the same applies to our own practices. We clearly should not be worshipping pagan items and doing it in His name. In addition, a sad example is how Easter has elements which have taken over the worship in so many families – they have become a form of idol. Many do not bother to go to church any more, and instead have egg hunts, ham dinners, and so many more activities riddled with traditions that are not of Yahweh. The Scriptures against idols are even more clear:
Romans 1:25 KJV Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
This is another big reason why we opt for Yahweh’s Holy Days rather than man-made holidays. We have been led to make this choice for ourselves for three reasons: Feast Days are commandments; we are told to honor them “forever” or for all our generations because Yahweh does not change; and because we are not to do pagan traditions in His name.
As far as the issue of idol worship, many will say that they don’t “worship” the bunny or the eggs, yet these have become the centerpiece of celebration for many years. I will just ask you at this time, please, take a close look at what is prominent in stores, businesses, your home and family during your Spring celebrations? Is it TRULY Yeshua, or is it eggs, baskets, ham, chocolate and rabbits?
It hasn’t always been an easy change for us, truthfully. It is difficult as others in family and many friends continue to follow their traditions, we do often feel left out and “abnormal.” It hurts, sometimes, too – what people say and do, and yet it all boils down to where our faith lies, where our devotion stands.
Joshua 24:15 WEB If it seems evil to you to serve Yahweh, choose this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh."
Shalom. . .
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Justifying Pagan Easter traditions
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Why We Don't Celebrate Easter and Christmas Anymore
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Lead Author (Bio)
Jim, (Judi's husband), has Sephardi Jewish ancestry and is a minister and head of Shofar Productions. Jim was a denominational pastor, hospital chaplain, and former director of a non-profit community organization.
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