Pagan Wedding and Birthday Traditions-Can They Be Compared?
An Examination of this topic as introduced by Greg Stafford in his book, "Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses"
The booklet The Facts on Halloween, pp. 8, 17 says: "Since Halloween itself originated with paganism, it is hardly surprising that is customs are related to pagan belief."
It then breaks down certain Halloween practices steeped in paganism that seem to parallel those of the practices surrounding the celebration of Jesus' birth (the involvement of the Druids, the worship of the Sun-God). Later, this publication states,

"Based on our discussion to date, we can see that Halloween symbolism and activities today, although technically removed from their ancient practices, nevertheless retain the underlying associations for which they were intended. In other words, the very act of dressing or costuming oneself heralds back to the original purpose for which this was done...Can we truly align ourselves innocently with something traditionally and currently involved with the occult and be certain we will never be affected in any manner? In other words, in merely participating in Halloween, are we ignorantly skirting the territory of the devil?" [Emphasis mine]
If other nominal Christian groups and individuals, even ones normally hostile to Jehovah's Witnesses like Ankerberg and Weldon can find fault with the pagan sources of Halloween, should we not examine Birthdays for the same things, even if we celebrate them ignorantly? Can we also compare this the wedding customs that many Witnesses cherish. I will be examining these two areas and making comparisons over the next few pages. This exploration will also include an examination of some of the statements in a recent book by Greg Stafford entitled, "Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses."
Greg Stafford points out that, while Jehovah's Witnesses are quick to point out that the pagan origins of celebrations such as Birthdays, he knows of "no Jehovah's Witness would even think twice about partaking of a wedding cake...the wearing of veils and wedding rings, customs that are surrounded by superstition"...and are "associated with pagan customs." Page 207

First, I will point out the origins of Birthdays and its customs, which will then be followed by an examination of Wedding origins and its customs. The reader will be able to determine the difference, and appreciate the wisdom behind these decisions.
As the Awake of 1981 12/22 12 states:

"Does that mean that Christians cannot have anything to do with any custom that might have originated in false religious rites? No. A great many common practices may have had such origins. But when features of the custom, as carried over into modern-day practice, go contrary to Bible principles, then true Christians must conscientiously refuse to participate."
Birthdays: Not until men first charted the stars thousands of years ago, and linked their fates with events in the sky, did personal birthdays down to the hour of birth become important. To know ones' moment of birth meant that a horoscope could be drawn up. The horoscope was considered critical to a good and happy life.
"The keeping of birthday records was important in ancient times principally because a birth date was essential for the casting of a horoscope," The Lore of Birthdays, Ralph and Adelin Linton.
Writes Linda Rannells Lewis in Birthdays, "Birthdays have been celebrated for thousands of years. In early civilizations, where the development of a calendar made an organized reckoning of birth dates possible, the horoscopes of ruling monarchs, their successors and rivals had to be cast with care and birthday omens meticulously examined, for the prospects of the mighty would affect the prospects of the entire society. By the time of Ptolemy V this practice was well established: 'Ptolemy, the ever living, the beloved of Ptah, the son of the two Brother-Gods, was born on the fifth day of the month DIOS, and this day was, in consequence, the beginning of great prosperity and happiness of all living men and women" (p. 12).

Ptolemy V was an ancient Egyptian king. It was common in his day for kings and rulers to have their horoscopes made by astrologers and their birthdays were considered very important omens of the future.
Lewis continues, "In Egypt households of the same period birthdays were celebrated similarly. A part of the family budget was set aside to buy birthday garlands and animals for sacrifice, just as we might plan to spend a certain sum for balloons, party hats, and an ice cream cake" (pages 12-13).
As with much that is new, the rich and prominent were the first to enjoy birthday celebrations. Egypt's Pharaohs ordered businesses to close on their birthdays and gave enormous feasts for their hundreds of servants. Cleopatra gave Antony a birthday dinner with gifts so plentiful that some party goers arrived poor and left wealthy.
http://www.openhere.com/holidays/birthday/history.htm

Celebrating of birthdays was common amongst neighboring pagan nations also, but it was completely foreign to the people of God.
"The observance of Christmas is not of divine appointment, nor is it of NT origin. The day of Christ's birth cannot be ascertained from the NT, or, indeed, from any other source. The fathers of the first three centuries do not speak of any special observance of the nativity."-Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature (Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1981 reprint), by John McClintock and James Strong, Volume II, page 276.
"Of all the holy people in the Scriptures, no one is recorded to have kept a feast or held a great banquet on his birthday. It is only sinners (like Pharaoh and Herod) who make great rejoicings over the day on which they were born into this world below."-The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York, 1911), Volume X, page 709 (quoting Origen Adamantius of the third century).

"Most of the Christmas customs now prevailing in Europe, or recorded from former times, are not genuine Christian customs, but heathen customs which have been absorbed or tolerated by the Church. . . . The Saturnalia in Rome provided the model for most of the merry customs of the Christmas time."-Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics (Edinburgh, 1911), edited by James Hastings, Volume III, pages 608, 609.

But, God inspired the prophet Jeremiah to write,
"Hear ye the word which the LORD speaketh unto you, O house of Israel: Thus saith the LORD, LEARN NOT THE WAY OF THE HEATHEN, and be not dismayed at the signs of the heaven (astrology!); for the heathen are dismayed at them. For the CUSTOMS OF THE PEOPLE ARE VAIN..." (Jeremiah 10:1-3).
Celebrating birthdays was a particularly Egyptian custom. God plainly commands His people,
"YOU SHALL NOT COPY THE PRACTICES OF THE LAND OF EGYPT where you dwelt...nor shall you follow their laws" (Leviticus 18:3 New Jewish PS-Tanakh).
Most of the customs God mentioned in Leviticus 18 were sexual practices common among the heathen, and common in the world around us, today. But verse 3 of this chapter, where God specifically says we are not to do "copy the practices of the land of EGYPT," clearly shows that the celebrations of BIRTHDAYS, so common in Egypt, was among the prohibitions stated by Jehovah God. As the Nelson Study Bible states here, the fear was that the "Israelites would be tempted to imitate the Canaanites physically, culturally, and religiously" as they had been when they were dominated by the Egyptians.
Charles Ryrie adds here, "The standards of God's people were not to be dictated by the practices of Egypt or Canaan but by the Lord Himself." Ryrie Study Bible/NIV
He then cross-references to Deut 18:9, which says, "When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there." NIV
The Companion Bible, Rainbow Study Bible KJV, Life Application Study Bible NASB, New Inductive Study Bible NASB, Hebrew-Greek Word Study, Prophecy Study Bible, The NASB Reference Edition Bible, Barnes Notes Bible Commentary, New World Translation-Reference Edition, the NASB Study Bible (Zondervan) and the MacArthur Study Bible all cross-references Jeremiah 10:2 right back to Lev 18:3, as mentioned above:
"After the doings of the land of Egypt, wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do." Egypt, where birthdays comes from. The NIV Study Bible cross-references it with Lev 20:23 stop
Ryrie's NIV Study Bible acknowledges my intent in using Jeremiah by stating that there is a three-fold contrast regarding idolatry, the first of which is as stated:
"Heathen worship attached great importance to the sun, moon and stars."
NAB, Jeremiah 10 footnote, "signs of the heavens: phenomena in the sky superstitiously regarded by the pagans as dire omens."
REB Oxford Study Bible, under the heading, "The folly of idolatry and of other 'ways of the nations'", Jeremiah 10 footnote, "'Omens' were connected with the prohibited worship of astral deities."
NKJV Nelson Study Bible, Jeremiah 10 footnote, "The signs of heaven were astral deities (8:1-3)."
RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Jeremiah 10 footnote, "Signs of the heavens (eclipses, astrological observations)"
Then too we have the disturbing connection of birthdays with human sacrifices. In 2Maccabees 6:7 there is the reference to the monthly celebration of the birthday of Antiochus IV, during which the Jews were forced to partake of the sacrifices. Josephus (Wars of the Jews, vii. 3. 1) refers to Titus’ celebration of his brother’s and father’s birthdays by slaughtering Jewish captives.
Could this be why the celebration of Birthdays was shunned by God's people in Bible times?

"The celebration of the anniversary of an individual's birth, though customary among the ancients, was originally frowned upon by the Christians," notes William S. Walsh in his book Curiosities of Popular Customs. Historian Walsh goes on to quote from early Christian writings on the subject, saying: "Thus Origen, in a homily on Leviticus xii 2, assures his hearers that 'none of the saints can be found who ever held a feast or a banquet upon his birthday, or rejoiced on the day when his son or his daughter was born. But sinners rejoice and make merry on such days."'
"The annual celebration of a person's birth probably originated in Egypt, where the birthdays of rulers and gods were celebrated with feasts. The early Christians did not celebrate birthdays at all." Encyclopedia of Days
http://www.shagtown.com/days/birthday.html

"The ancient world of Egypt, Greece, Rome and Persia celebrated the birthdays of gods, kings, and nobles...Although the ancient Israelis kept records of the ages of their male citizens, there is no evidence that they had any festivities on the anniversary of the birth date" (Encyclopedia Americana 1991).

"Christians of the first century did not celebrate the festival honoring the birth of Jesus-for the same reason they honored no other birthday anniversary. It was the feeling at that time by all Christians that the celebration of all birthdays (even the Lord's) was a custom of the pagans." Dr. John C. McCollister's The Christian Book of Why

To early Christians astrology was associated with Eastern religions, Roman Stoicism and the twisted thinking of the Gnostics. Christians wanted no part of that!
But you may think, what is wrong with astrology and horoscopes? After all, many nominal Christians participate in this practice.
"The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, 'All forms of divination are to be rejected: recourse to Satan or demons, conjuring up the dead or other practices falsely supposed to ‘unveil’ the future. Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and, in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate hidden powers. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone' (CCC 2116).
The pagan world was dominated by belief in astrology. Pagans believed that the stars were divinities, or that they were controlled by divinities. Apollo was the god of the sun, his sister Diana was the goddess of the moon, and the known planets were named after gods as well (Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn). Because of this common pagan belief, the Old Testament contains repeated injunctions against star-worship (Deut. 4:19, 17:3; 2 Kgs. 17:16, 21:3–5, 23:4; Jer. 8:2, 19:12–13; Zeph. 1:4–6).
In the New Testament age, astrologers taught that all things were in the grip of Fate, which could assign one destiny to one man and another destiny to another. Fate was extremely powerful and sometimes was even said to rule the gods. However, what destiny Fate would assign to a man could be determined by reading the stars.
Today some Christians are influenced by revived paganism in the form of the New Age movement. Some even suggest that Christianity originally held many occult beliefs, such as astrology. But the early Christians, like the early Jews, were vehemently opposed to astrology, even attributing it to demonic origin.
The Church Fathers were willing to impose strong sanctions against astrology to protect their flocks. In A.D. 120, the noted mathematician Aquila Ponticus was excommunicated from the Church at Rome for astrological heresies."
From http://www.catholic.com/library/Astrology.asp
Astrology cannot be combined with Christian belief in any way. It is condemned explicitly in the Bible (Isaiah. 47:13-14), and implicitly in passages condemning divination and worshipping the heavens (Deut. 4:19, 17:3, 18:9-12; 2 Kings 17:16; Jer. 10:2; Acts 7:42). Attributing special meaning to planetary positions honors celestial bodies over God and is a rejection of God's command to seek His advice (Is. 8:19-20; Dan. 2:27-28).
Thus,
"In the Bible there is no instance of birthday celebrations among the Jews themselves," points out M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopædia, adding: "In fact, the later Jews at least regarded birthday celebrations as parts of idolatrous worship."
"The notion of a birthday festival was far from the ideas of the Christians of this period in general." [The History of the Christian Religion and Church, During the Three First Centuries (New York, 1848), Augustus Neander (translated by Henry John Rose), p. 190.] "The later Hebrews looked on the celebration of birthdays as a part of idolatrous worship, a view which would be abundantly confirmed by what they saw of the common observances associated with these days." [The Imperial Bible-Dictionary (London, 1874), edited by Patrick Fairbairn, Vol. I, p. 225.]
Of course, astrology may not have been the only connection known to early Christians. Birthdays had strong connections with pagan religions that are less noticeable today.
"The custom of commemorating the day of birth is connected . . . in its content, with certain primitive religious principles," Encyclopædia of Religion and Ethics.
What principles?
Spiritism, for one.
http://www.birthdayexpress.com/bexpress/planning/BirthdayCelebrations.asp
"History of Birthdays
Before humans had a way of keeping time, no one paid much attention to the anniversary of important events, such as birthdays. Only when ancient peoples began taking notice of the moon's cycles, did they pay attention to the changing seasons and the pattern that repeated itself over and over. Eventually, the first calendars were formulated in order to mark time changes and other special days. From this tracking system came the ability to celebrate birthdays and other significant anniversaries the same day each year.
Evidence of birthday observances dates back before the rise of Christianity. In pagan cultures, people feared evil spirits - especially on their birthdays. It was a common belief that evil spirits were more dangerous to a person when he or she experienced a change in their daily life, such as turning a year older. As a result, birthdays were merry occasions celebrated with family and friends, who surrounded the person of honor with laughter and joy in order to protect them from evil. Instead of gifts, most guests brought positive thoughts and happy wishes for the upcoming year. However, if well-wishers did bring gifts, it was considered an especially good influence for the birthday person."
"The Greeks believed that everyone had a protective spirit or daemon who attended his birth and watched over him in life. This spirit had a mystic relation with the god on whose birthday the individual was born. The Romans also subscribed to this idea. They called the spirit the genius. This notion was carried down in human belief and is reflected in the guardian angel, the fairy godmother and the patron saint."-The Lore of Birthdays,p. 8, by Ralph and Adelin Linton.
"The various customs with which people today celebrate their birthdays have a long history. Their origins lie in the realm of magic and religion. The customs of offering congratulations, presenting gifts and celebrating - complete with lighted candles - in ancient times were meant to protect the birthday celebrant from the demons and to ensure his security for the coming year... Down to the fourth century, Christianity rejected the birthday celebration as a pagan custom." [Schwbische Zeitung, April 3/4, 1981, p. 4.]

If the Christians of the first-century refused to celebrate their own birthdays, it falls on us to follow that same pattern.
True Christians should "fight on for the faith which once and for all God has given to his people." Jude 3 TEV
These are the ones prophesied in Zephaniah 3:9, where Jehovah "will restore to the peoples a pure language." NKJV
The Psalmist asks, "Who shall ascend into the hill of Jehovah? And who shall stand in his holy place?" The answer?
"He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart." Psalm 24:3, 4, cf. Matthew 5:8
Additionally, much that is taken for granted in birthday celebrations today retains the flavor of ancient religious rites.
"The custom of lighted candles on the cakes started with the Greeks," say the Lintons. "Philochorus [an ancient Greek historian] records that on the sixth day of each month, the birthday of Artemis, [the fertility] goddess of the moon and the hunt, honey cakes round as the moon and lit with tapers were placed on the temple altars of this goddess."
What do the candles mean?
"Birthday candles, in folk belief, are endowed with special magic for granting wishes . . . Lighted tapers and sacrificial fires have had a special mystic significance ever since man first set up altars to his gods. The birthday candles are thus an honor and tribute to the birthday child and bring good fortune," notes the same source.
How about the traditional greeting "Happy Birthday"? Says The Lore of Birthdays:
"Birthday greetings and wishes for happiness are an intrinsic part of this holiday. . . . originally the idea was rooted in magic. The working of spells for good and evil is the chief usage of witchcraft. One is especially susceptible to such spells on his birthday, as one's personal spirits are about at the time. . . . Birthday greetings have power for good or ill because one is closer to the spirit world on this day."-Page 20.
Birthdays play a major role even in modern Satanism.
The Satanic Bible (Anton Szandor LaVey, (Air) Book of Lucifer – The Enlightenment, Avon Books, 1969, Ch XI,
Religious Holidays, p. 96) has the following to say about Birthdays:
‘Why not really be honest and if you are going to create a god in your image, why not create that god as yourself." Every man is a god if he chooses to recognize himself as one. So, the Satanist celebrates his own birthday as the most important holiday of the year. After all, aren’t you happier about the fact that you were born than you are about the birth of someone you have never even met? Or for that matter, aside from religious holidays, why pay higher tribute to the birthday of a president or to a date in history than we do to the day we were brought into this greatest of all worlds?
Despite the fact that some of us may not have been wanted, or at least were not particularly planned, we’re glad, even if no one else is, that we’re here! You should give yourself a pat on the back, buy yourself whatever you want, treat yourself like the king (or god) that you are, and generally celebrate your birthday with as much pomp and ceremony as possible."
"The birthday is the most important holiday a member of the Church of Satan can celebrate, as outlined by Anton Szandors LaVey in The Satanic Bible. Satanists believe that the most important being is themselves, so the day when they first breathe is the best day among all others." Exquisitor
http://www.everything2.com/index.pl?node=Birthday

What did Satan tell Eve? "You will be like God!" Gen. 3:5 NRSV
Jehovah's Witnesses have long recognized the selfishness behind celebrating birthdays:
"Additionally, birthday celebrations tend to give excessive importance to an individual, no doubt one reason why early Christians shunned them. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)" sj 17-18
"A birthday party, however, is a day set aside regularly, each year, to honor a human. Could not such a procedure easily result in excessive adulation of sinful creatures? (Rom. 3:23) When the apostle John fell down to worship before a sinless heavenly angel who had shown to John visions of future events, the angel cautioned: "Be careful! Do not do that! All I am is a fellow slave of you and of your brothers . . . Worship God." (Rev. 22:9) Are not we today even more inclined toward adulation of created persons?" Awake 76 7/8 27-8
Satan also told Eve, "You surely will not die!" Genesis 3:4. Another lie.
Commenting on Genesis 40:20, Dr. Adam Clarke observes:
"The distinguishing [of] a birthday by a feast appears from this place to have been a very ancient custom. It probably had its origin from [the] notion of the immortality of the soul, as the commencement of life must appear of great consequence to that person who believed he was to live for ever."
How much more evidence is needed before we completely discard this selfish and destructive practice?
Some though, like Greg Stafford, have used the pagan background of certain wedding customs accepted by JW's as an allowance for the celebration of birthdays amongst Christians. But is this a fair comparison?
Weddings:

"In the same light, I know of no Jehovah's Witnesses who would think twice about partaking of a wedding cake even though this practice is associated pagan customs. In ancient times, the cake was a symboly of fertility. After the bread or cake was broken the bride was the first one to eat it, so as to preserve her fertility. Thereafter those partaking would do so as a gesture of 'good luck' for the married couple.... The same is true for the wearing of veils and wedding rings, customs that are surrounded by superstition. For example, the wearing of the ring on the third finger...of the left hand was done because ancient customs believed it had a vein running straight to the heart. In some ancient cultures the ring was also thought to protect its wearer from evil spirits...In ancient times veils of various colors, especially red and yellow were used to ward of evil spirits. The fact that this tradition is pagan in origin does not of itself make it unfit for Christians..." Three Dissertations on the Teachings of Jehovah's Witnesses, Greg Stafford, p. 207
I have a few problems with the above statement, as it is used as a pretext to delve into the unscriptural celebrations of Birthdays, as mentioned above. For instance, are veils at weddings truly pagan in origin?
Veils:
Speaking of marriages in the Bible, the Harper-Collins Bible Dictionary says:

"The bride wore her finest clothes, many jewels (Isa. 61:10), and a veil (Gen. 29:23-25; Song of Sol. 4:1)."
The book, Insight on the Scriptures expands on this:
"She decked herself with ornaments and jewels, if she was able to do so (Isa 49:18; 61:10; Re 21:2), and then covered herself with a light garment, a form of veil, that extended from head to foot. (Isa 3:19, 23) This explains why Laban could so easily practice a deception on Jacob so that Jacob did not know that Laban was giving him Leah instead of Rachel. (Ge 29:23, 25) Rebekah put on a head covering when she approached to meet Isaac. (Ge 24:65) This symbolized the subjection of the bride to the bridegroom-to his authority.-1Co 11:5, 10."
Pagan origin indeed?!
While the yellow and red veils were worn to ward of evil spirits in pagan circles, we can hardly condemn them, especially as the Bible mentions them about 55 times. It simply has strong Biblical grounding:
"Today, prior to a Jewish wedding ceremony, it is the groom who ritually "veils the bride". This reason for this tradition goes back to the marriage of Jacob to Leah (the older sister) when he thought he was marrying Rachel (the younger sister) whom he loved." HISTORICAL WEDDING TRADITIONS AND OTHER TRIVIA, 1997-2002, Kendricks Designer Images
At best we have overlapping traditions, with the pagan custom not leading us to an occultic function or an heathen deity.
We can thus dismiss veils as a pagan device in honor of any deity or custom deemed abominable in the Bible, and henceforth remove it as a comparison to birthdays.
Rings: The Bible has little mention of rings, though Hosea 2, which is called the "most developed form" of "marital metaphor in the OT" [Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible, p. 200] describes the unfaithful Jewish bride as someone who "has decked herself with her ring and jewelry" [Hosea 2:13 NRSV, no less effective if it is a nose-ring or earring].
Even if the Bible does not directly mention wedding rings, it is plain that Jehovah's servants could wear rings. (Job 42:11, 12; Luke 15:22)
It is true that, "the wearing of the ring on the third finger...of the left hand was done because ancient customs believed it had a vein running straight to the heart" but this is only one historical aspect of the ring.

"THE ENGAGEMENT AND WEDDING RINGS
Like the cake, the wedding ring also has its origins in early Roman times. During this period, Gold was a highly valued substance, and the wedding ring was made of gold as a symbol of eternal love and commitment. Some of these had a key carved onto them, as it was thought that the bride could use this to unlock her husband's heart. The engagement ring, however, has an entirely different history. In 860 A.D, Pope Nicholas the first stated that a gold ring was to be the official statement of a couple's decision to marry. The gold was intended to signify the financial sacrifice on the part of the groom. This ring later became known as the 'engagement ring'. During the 15th century, it became tradition that the engagement ring should contain a diamond, as the diamond's hardiness was meant to symbolise that the bonds of marriage would last forever."
http://www.bridalnet.com.au/tradition_01.htm
That many ancients thought that the third finger was connected to the heart is true, but this was also a view held by physicians of the time. It might also be mentioned as a silly romantic notion, but I have yet to see evidence that this symbol of commitment had any strong religious association with a pagan deity or occult practice.
From w72 p.63:
"It is thus seen that the precise origin of the wedding ring is uncertain. Even if it were a fact that pagans first used wedding rings, would that rule such out for Christians? Not necessarily. Many of today's articles of clothing and aspects of life originated in pagan lands. The present time divisions of hours, minutes and seconds are based on an early Babylonian system. Yet, there is no objection to a Christian's using these time divisions, for one's doing so does not involve carrying on false religious practices."
We can also dismiss rings as a pagan device in honor of any deity or custom deemed abominable in the Bible, and thereby removing it as a comparison to birthdays.
Wedding Cakes: Wedding cakes were indeed used as a symbol of fertility, and many wedding traditions are full of fertility symbols. This is only to be expected, since this was the original divine purpose weddings, a view shared by pagans also.
"God blessed them; and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.'" Gen 1:28
The wedding cake traditions have of course changed over time:

"The Ancient Romans would bake a cake made of wheat or barley and break it over the bride's head as a symbol of her fertility. It became tradition to pile up several small cakes, one on top of the other, as high as they could, and the bride and groom would kiss over the tower and try not to knock it down. If they were successful, it meant a lifetime of prosperity.
This is of course a little different from the tradition of today, which was refined in the 17th century.
In the 1660s, during the reign of King Charles II, a French chef was visiting London and observed the cake piling ceremony. Appalled at the haphazard manner in which the British stacked baked goods, often to have them tumble, he conceived the idea of transforming the mountain of bland biscuits into an iced, multi-tiered cake sensation."
There are many references in the Bible of God's people eating cakes (1 Ki 17:13; 19:6; 2Ki 20:7 etc), but we can hardly compare this to certain wedding customs, such as throwing rice and the bridal toss, which would give glory to the "god of Good Luck" (Is 65:11 NWT). Weddings are festive occasions where food and wine are shared by all sorts of people, and this is how the Kingdom is described:
Matt 22:2 "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son." NASB (cf. Matt 22:11)
We certainly do not want to be compared to "the things that demons teach...men with seared consciences who forbid people to marry and insist on abstinence from certain kinds of food that God created." 1 Tim 4:3 Goodspeed
The hope that a couple could conceive held a higher importance in Bible times as it does today. Barrenness was considered a social disgrace as children provided valuable security and were viewed as essential links to continue each family’s lineage and honor. Barrenness was so hated and spurned, it was often referred to as a curse. Hence, it is common to find fertility customs associated with certain wedding practices.
That there is an overlap in some wedding customs and traditions was long recognized. In the Song of Solomon 3:11 and Revelation 12:1 we have "crowns" used as part of the Biblical wedding imagery, yet this was also the case with pagans:
"Marriage, too, decks the [pagan] bridegroom with its crown." Tertullian (c. 211, W), 3.101. [As quoted in A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs by David W. Bercot, Editor]
Jehovah's Witnesses have been careful to only partake in celebration, like weddings, that show a divine and Biblical origin, and to reject birthdays, as they bear origins leading back to pagan deities and occultic backgrounds. This has been the dividing line used. Though accepting weddings as a divine institution, they have even been careful to warn of certain customs, like rice-throwing and the bridal-toss, for fear of breaking the commandment at Exodus 20:3, and giving honor to the gods of good luck, such as the Aramean Gad, and the unknown god Meni. [See footnote Isaiah 65:11 in the New Jerusalem Bible]
While breaking cakes over the heads of the bride and groom may have signified "good luck," let's face it, no one really breaks cakes today.
What many overlook is the importance that marriages and weddings play in the Bible, and how this compares to our relationship with the Creator.
Consider the following from Smith's Bible Dictionary:

"The bridegroom prepared himself for the occasion by putting on a festive dress, and especially by placing on his head a handsome nuptial turban. (Psalms 45:8; Solomon 4:10,11) The bride was veiled. Her robes were white, (Revelation 19:8) and sometimes embroidered with gold thread, (Psalms 45:13,14) and covered with perfumes! (Psalms 45:8) she was further decked out with jewels. (Isaiah 49:18; 61:10; Revelation 21:2) When the fixed hour arrived, which was, generally late in the evening, the bridegroom set forth from his house, attended by his groomsmen (Authorized Version "companions," (Judges 14:11) "children of the bride-chamber," (Matthew 9:15) preceded by a band of musicians or singers, (Genesis 31:27; Jeremiah 7:34; 16:9) and accompanied by persons hearing flambeaux, (Jeremiah 25:10) 2 Esdr. 10:2; (Matthew 25:7; Revelation 18:23) and took the bride with the friends to his own house. At the house a feast was prepared, to which all the friends and neighbors were invited, (Genesis 29:22; Matthew 22:1-10; Luke 14:8; John 2:2) and the festivities were protracted for seven or even fourteen days. (Judges 14:12; Job 8:19) The guests were provided by the host with fitting robes, (Matthew 22:11) and the feast was enlivened with riddles, (Judges 14:12) and other amusements. The last act in the ceremonial was the conducting of the bride to the bridal chamber, (Judges 15:1; Joel 2:16) where a canopy was prepared. (Psalms 19:5; Joel 2:16) The bride was still completely veiled, so that the deception practiced on Jacob, (Genesis 29:23) was not difficult. A newly married man was exempt from military service, or from any public business which might draw him away from his home, for the space of a year, ( 24:5) a similar privilege was granted to him who was ’betrothed. ( 20:7)"
There is rejoicing, there is happiness, the festivities are long and are enjoyed by all. The same is true for those who have Jehovah as their husbandly owner (Isaiah 54:5; Jeremiah 3:14). God's relationship with his wife can be used as an example of the commitment and the adoration expected from a husband towards his wife. This relationship bears a typical connection to the inexhaustible love that God through Christ has towards those he calls his own (see Eph. 3:18, 18). This theme is even better developed at Ephesians 5:21-27.
Jehovah's Witnesses realize this relationship. For us, a celebration of the marriage union is a celebration of the family unit, and exemplifies our relationship with Jehovah God. Why, our first commercial in years was a celebration of the family (see http://www.jw-media.org/edu_videos/default.htm )
The wedding celebration, with all its quirks, becomes a way for Jehovah's Witnesses to celebrate the family, to celebrate God's marital arrangement. It is a celebration of the US (and the hope of procreating more of US), not the ME. This makes it the anti-Satanism.
Above all though, it is a celebration of LOVE.
"Clothe yourselves with love, for it is a perfect bond of union." Col 3:14 NWT
"Rejoice with the wife of your youth." Prov 5:18 NWT
"A man's greatest treasure is his wife-she is a gift from the LORD." Proverbs 18:22 CEV
We do not have this positive praise Biblically with the celebrations of birthdays, or the self. Rather, "It's selfish and stupid to think only of yourself and to sneer at people who have sense." Prov 18:1 CEV
There is little that is positive to be associated with anything having to do with birthdays from a Biblical, common sense, historical, pagan and satanic perspective.
A common objection to the above statement from many, including Mr. Stafford is, "who really makes any such association today?"
Greg Stafford has been a great defender of the Divine Name "Jehovah" and would argue against the disappearance of the Name from public view. Yet, most people who purchase a Bible translation from the local store will more than likely either buy a New International Version, a King James Version, a New King James Version, a New Living Translation, a New American Bible, a New American Standard Bible, a New Revised Standard Version, a Good News Translation, a Contemporary English Version etc. All these Bibles have removed the Divine Name [the KJV has it a scant 4 times, at Ex. 6:3; Ps 83:18; Is. 12:2; 26:4] so it is fair to say that most people who own a Bible today do not associate the name YHWH with the God of the Scriptures. Who really makes such an association today? This ignorance amounts to negligence on the part of translators and bespeaks of the apathy of those who are unwilling to investigate its origins.
Ignorance may be bliss, but it should never be accomodated. The same goes for our investigations of certain customs.
"Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead expose them." Ephesians 8:10, 11
"Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good." 3 John 11
"Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." Romans 12:9
"What harmony has Christ with Belial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? 2 Corinthians 6:15
(The Common Edition New Testament by Timothy E.Clontz)
By Heinz Schmitz
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Addition: It should be noted that the same groups that do NOT make such association are not the mindset that we should be pandering to. Barna.org gives us an indication of their thought processes:

http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PagePressRelease.asp?PressReleaseID=92&Reference=D
"Given the statement "the Bible is totally accurate in all that it teaches," strong agreement with that view ranged from four out of five among those who attend a charismatic or Pentecostal church down to just one out of five Episcopalians. Nationally, less than half of all adults (41%) believe the Bible is totally accurate in all it teaches.
Most Americans do not accept evangelism as a personal responsibility: only one-third (32%) claim they have an obligation to share their religious faith with those who believe differently. Acceptance of that responsibility was most widely adopted by those who attend Pentecostal churches (73%) and least widely accepted among Episcopalians (12%) and Catholics (17%).
The notion that Satan, or the devil, is a real being who can influence people's lives is regarded as hogwash by most Americans. Only one-quarter (27%) strongly believes that Satan is real while a majority argues that he is merely a symbol of evil. Mormons are the group most likely to accept the reality of Satan's existence (59%) while Catholics, Episcopalians and Methodists are the least likely (just one-fifth)."
http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=7
"Almost two out of three adults (62%) know that the Book of Isaiah is in the Old Testament. One out of ten people (11%) believe it is in the New Testament. One out of four (27%) don’t know. (1994)
12% of adults believe that the name of Noah’s wife was Joan of Arc. (The Bible does not provide her name.) (1997)
One out of six people (16%) believe that one of the books in the New Testament is the Book of Thomas, written by the apostle Thomas. Another one-third of the population are not sure whether or not there is such a book in the New testament of the Bible. (1994)"

http://www.barna.org/cgi-bin/PageCategory.asp?CategoryID=6
"A majority of all born again Christians reject the existence of the Holy Spirit (52%). (2001)
More than two out of every five adults (43%) believe that Jesus Christ lived on earth He committed sins. (2001)
Across ethnicity, 46% of Hispanics, 43% of whites, and 38% of blacks agree with the idea that "when He lived on earth, Jesus Christ was human and committed sins, like other people." (2001)
One out of four people (22%) believe that Jesus Christ never got married because he was a priest and priests did not marry. (1994)
Nearly three out of five adults (58%) say that the devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil. (2001)
45% of born again Christians deny Satan's existence. (2001)
Nearly seven out of ten Catholics (68%) say the devil is non-existent, compared to 60% of Protestant mainline church attenders, 51% of Baptists and 50% of Protestant non-mainline church attenders who agree that Satan is only a symbol of evil. (2001)
Men emerge as slightly more likely than woman to believe that Satan is just a symbol of evil (61% to 55%, respectively). (2001)"

Why would you want to ingratiate ourselves to such an ignorant lot. The thing that separates Jehovah's Witnesses from other faiths is our need to "make sure of all things, hold fast to what is fine." 1 Thess. 5:21
I feel it is wrong to exploit the weaknesses of nominal xtianity to buttress our own position.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Back to Home
Email Me