Christian Groups That Don’t Celebrate Easter
By Logan Chamberlain
Although Christmas gets top-billing in the United States and in media in a very big way, for much of the Christian world Easter is a comparatively--some say, more--important holiday. Commemorating the miraculous resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth as described in the Christian Bible, Easter has been a significant part of Christian observances since before the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Why, then, do some self-identified Christian groups not recognize the holiday?
Although the specific rationales vary, the common thread between denominations rejecting Easter is that the holiday isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. These denominations similarly don’t recognize Christmas and Lent for the same reason. What varies most significantly is how this informs various criticisms of Easter.
Christian Criticisms of Easter
The root of most modern Easter criticisms lies in the Protestant Reformation. Although many Protestants celebrate Easter, the early Puritans included festivities like Easter in their criticisms of Catholicism (Daniels). Some claimed that it was derivative of pagan practices that were incompatible with Christianity, while others identified it with their criticism of papal authority and ritual (Walsh).
In the intervening centuries, the number of Protestant denominations has proliferated and so too have their arguments against Easter. These include: the celebration of holidays not in the Bible is equivalent to idolatry, and therefore abomination; the Roman Catholic Church just assimilated a pagan holiday, and that it therefore isn’t truly Christian; Christians should celebrate the event of the resurrection, but instead of the specific date they should honor the Sabbath; and that every day should be held as holy, and there should be no holidays.
The most famous Christian groups to commonly reject Easter are: the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), Messianic Jewish groups (also known as Hebrew-Christians), Armstrong Movement churches, many Puritan-descended Presbyterians, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
While the Quakers are well-known for rejecting all holidays, most non-Easter denominations do observe some holidays. The most common of these are the recognition of the Last Supper on the evening of Nisan 14 (see Hebrew Calendar), and the observance of traditional holiday of Passover—Passover is generally characterized as a Jewish holiday, but it is named in the Bible (bearing in mind that Jesus was a rabbi.) Some other denominations recognize the Sabbath and other holidays identified by name within the text of the Old or New Testaments.
Additional sources: Bruce Colin Daniels' Puritans at Play: Leisure and Recreation in Colonial New England and “Holy Time and Sacred Space in Puritan New England” in American Quarterly.