grinchIn 1957, the acclaimed children’s author Dr. Seuss penned an instant classic, a beloved tale of a grumpy green monster whose shoes and heart were too small or too tight to tolerate the evil holiday known as Christmas. Oh the commercialism, the singing, the stockings, the gifts…it was just too much, and he had to stop it.

The Grinch was his name; ending Christmas was his game.

As the story unfolds, Mr Grinch schemes to impersonate Santa Claus, dresses his dog as a reindeer, then sets off with his sled on a mission to take back all the presents that Santa worked so hard to distribute. Just like that, Christmas was gone. Or was it?

While hauling all the gifts to the top of a nearby mountain, the Grinch heard something he was not expecting – singing! He heard the sound of joy and happiness, despite the fact that he had stolen everything – the stockings, the bicycles, the popcorn, the drums, even the Christmas tree!

And the Grinch, with his grinch-feet ice-cold in the snow, Stood puzzling and puzzling: “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes or bags!”
And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! – “Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!”

In the end, the Grinch had an awakening, a revelation that enlarged his heart and enabled him to see that the holiday he once hated so badly was not so bad after all, and he finally understood what it meant to the community. He gave back all the stolen gifts, rejoined his community, and even carved the Christmas meal with his new friends.

It is sometimes said that life imitates art, and for millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses past and present, there was a modern-day Grinch who stole Christmas from their lives. Only this time the Grinch stayed the Grinch.

If you are one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are among a unique group of people who have transitioned greatly over the past century. Within your own lifetime you might not have seen radical change. But viewed historically, the organization has morphed into a highly controlling religious hierarchy that has banned nearly every celebration commonly accepted in our civilized world. The penalty for celebrating Christmas or any other holiday is severe: complete banishment from association and friendship with all other Jehovah’s Witnesses.

This may not seem significant to the great majority of mankind, but if most of your family and friends are Witnesses, let me assure you the punishment is devastating.

Why did this happen?

In the late 1800s, a man by the name of Charles Taze Russell initiated a religious movement that was based on an ultra-literal interpretation of the Bible. Despite the fact that “Pastor” Russell had no advanced schooling, no theological training, and no education in Hebrew or Greek, he was able to parlay his business earnings into the printing and distribution of an endless stream of books and magazines focusing on the return of Jesus to invisible authority over the Earth. Once initiated, this “Bible Student” movement became self-perpetuating – collecting dollars, real estate and admirers as the years progressed.

One of those admirers was a man by the name of Robert H. Barber.



For matters of clarification, Barber is not to be confused with Nelson Barbour (the Adventist once associated with Russell) or Carey Barber (deceased member of the Governing Body of Jehovah’s Witnesses)

There is limited information available regarding R.H. Barber, but we do know that he became a loyal follower of Charles Taze Russell by the turn of the 20th century, writing glowing reviews of Russell’s books. These letters to Russell were published in the pages of the Watchtower.

Barber apparently made quite an impression on Russell, and just before Russell’s death in 1916 he was listed among key public speakers at the July 1916 Newport Rhode Island convention of Bible Students. He shared the platform with A.H. Macmillan, C.J. Woodworth, R.J. Martin, W.E. Van Amburgh and other well-known Bible Student speakers and writers.

Barber managed to survive the turmoil that ensued following Russell’s death in 1916 and the subsequent takeover by attorney Joseph F. Rutherford. In fact, at the annual meeting held January 4th 1919, R.H. Barber received the 3rd highest number of votes for an elected officer of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract society, eclipsed only by C.A. Wise and the Watchtower president himself, J.F. Rutherford. Clearly Barber was becoming an influential presence within the organization.

On October 1st 1919, two of Barber’s colleagues (mentioned earlier), Clayton J. Woodworth and Robert J. Martin began publishing a new magazine called The Golden Age (now titled Awake!). This journal served to supplement The Watchtower, examining both current events and politics along with doctrinal opinions.

The Golden Age magazine became an added platform for Barber, who was already touring the United States, gaining steam as the organization continued to grow. In 1924, the Watchtower organization added a radio station to its list of assets, and R.H. Barber became a regular preacher, delivering broadcast sermons such as “Why is the World Still Unconverted and Who is to Blame?” and “The Real Christian and the Hypocrite.”

By 1928, Joseph Rutherford had become nearly as prolific a writer as Charles Taze Russell, but he was not satisfied with just publishing his doctrinal and political opinions; he became obsessed with organizational allegiance and separating the Bible Students/Watchtower adherents from the mainstream religions of Christendom. If C. T. Russell had been thought of as a religious cult leader, J.F. Rutherford took it to a whole new level. And his right hand man R.H. Barber was about to change the lives of every person ever associated with, or descended from, the Jehovah’s Witness organization.

As declared in the Jehovah’s Witness organization’s most recent history summary titled “God’s Kingdom Rules!,” R.H. Barber delivered a speech in December 1928 that officially condemned the celebration of Christmas as an unchristian, pagan celebration inspired by Satan, and used as a tool to dishonor God and his Son. From this point forward it would no longer be considered acceptable to take part in this celebration or any related festivities. In fact, page 102 of this 2014 JW history book displays a photo of the final Christmas celebration at Brooklyn headquarters.

Seated prominently at the end of one of the long tables is the Grinch himself, R.H. Barber (circled, by Watchtower, in the image below from the God’s Kingdom Rules book).


Further embedding the ban on Christmas permanently into Jehovah’s Witness theology was The Golden Age article published on December 12th 1928. The article was titled “Christmas, Its Origin and Purpose.”

R.H. Barber denounces Christmas in the December 1928 Golden Age magazine



Much has been said about the differences in belief between Charles Taze Russell and his successor J. F. Rutherford, but one quality they shared was a singular hatred for the teachings of the Catholic Church.

12431341_1746487675570153_2044291449_nThe origin of much of this disdain for the Catholic Church and its practices stemmed from the writings of a man by the name of Alexander Hislop (1807-1865). Hislop was a Scottish minister known for his denunciation of the Catholic Church, and whose most notable work was the book titled The Two Babylons, The Papal Worship Proved to Be the Worship of Nimrod and His Wife.

The Two Babylons was originally published as a pamphlet; then by 1919 it had emerged as a 330-page book, complete with illustrations. This book served as the touchstone for a multitude of Jehovah’s Witness teachings, including the elimination of the cross and the ban on holidays such as Christmas and Easter. It was considered so important to Jehovah’s Witnesses that the organization bought thousands of copies and received permission to sell and distribute the book, which they did all the way through to 1986.


The JW connection to Hislop has not gone unnoticed by the religious community at large. In 2014 the website criticized the exaggerated claims of Hislop, pointing the finger at Jehovah’s Witnesses for adopting his questionable research:

The 40 day fast does not come from the so-called “weeping of Tammuz” as claimed by the radical anti-Roman Catholic writer Alexander Hislop in his book The Two Babylons. Hislop made up myths and connections out of thin air because of his hatred for Roman Catholicism. Hislop’s views were adopted whole cloth by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who continued to republish Hislop’s book until 1987. Hislop’s book was cited in 22 different issues of the Jehovah’s Witnesses periodical The Watchtower from 1950 to 1978, and several times in the 1980s. From 1989 the Jehovah’s Witnesses stopped referring to Hilsop’s book, but they have kept Hislop’s teaching and use other sources.



The history of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Christmas might seem interesting to some, yet completely useless to others. The background only matters if it matters to you.

It matters to me, but not by choice. In the mid 1960s my parents had just married, and by 1967, the year of my birth, they had been converted to the religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses. This meant that I never experienced a Christmas tree, Christmas gifts, or any of the holiday traditions associated with December 25th. I was instructed as a child to declare that the celebration of Christmas was “against my religion.” This, along with the complete abstinence from all other holidays including Easter, Halloween, and the innocuous Thanksgiving Day rendered me an instant outcast from my classmates. I was different, and R.H. Barber was to blame. And Hislop. And Rutherford.

By the time I reached middle and high school, I was expected to deliver a well-rehearsed explanation for why I would not engage in any holiday celebrations, not even politely wishing my classmates a Merry Christmas or Seasons Greetings, as this would compromise the faith that was delivered to me every year in the form of a Watchtower or Awake! article condemning every notable and enjoyable annual holiday.


I was baptized in 1984, the year Jehovah’s Witnesses declared (yet again) that “this generation” would not pass away until all Bible prophecies about “the end” were fulfilled. By the end of that year the Watchtower had driven yet another spike into Christmas, declaring it a “dangerous” holiday.

In retrospect, I never really thought of Christmas as dangerous. In fact, I secretly admired the ritual nature of Christmas, as it seemed somewhat joyful and positive, and not god-dishonoring at all. To the extent that I was able, I enjoyed Christmas music and Christmas themed movies. Was this a secret sin? I suppose it was, according to the Grinch.

When I had moved into my first apartment, I discovered Frank Capra’s classic movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which I watched with no remorse. And music? Well I admit I liked Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas” and Elmo N’ Patsy’s comical “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer.”


It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 90 years since Jehovah’s Witnesses banned Christmas from the list of approved activities. The Grinch, Mr. Barber is long gone, along with all the men who agreed to this travesty and perversion of normal behavior. Yet the inertia of this belief continues, and in its December 15th 2015 issue, the Watchtower magazine has once again slung its arrows at Santa Claus and the Catholic Church. It does not appear that the Governing Body will be erecting a Christmas tree at the new Warwick compound anytime soon.

So, what is the solution? Dr. Seuss might just be able to provide the answer. When the Grinch was about to destroy all of the Christmas gifts, he paused for just a second and listened to the distant sound of singing coming from the townspeople of Who-Ville. He had stopped and used his mind just long enough to understand that Christmas was not evil, and it was not about the gifts. It was about life, and family, and the common bond of humanity.

He was cured.

From everyone at JW Survey, we wish you a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!






This article was slated to be posted much earlier, but unfortunately we had to do some important maintenance work to JWsurvey over the holiday period, which took longer than expected. I’d like to thank you all for your patience during the “downtime” while we worked to get JWsurvey back up and running, and I heartily join John in wishing all our readers every happiness for 2016! – Lloyd

Mark O'Donnell

Mark O'Donnell is a former Jehovah's Witness turned whistleblower after discovering the disturbing child abuse epidemic within the religion. His story, along with the revelation of a secret database of child molesters were featured in the March 2019 online issue of the Atlantic Magazine: O'Donnell continues to investigate allegations of child abuse within the Witness organization, and works with law enforcement, attorneys, and survivors of abuse, writing about his findings on and other outlets.

142 thoughts on “How the Watchtower Stole Christmas

  • January 2, 2016 at 1:17 pm

    HO HO HO and Merry Christmas to all you Christmas haters out there! (LOL, it’s all in light fun!)

    I knew that Christmas was of pagan origin long before I ever studied with the JW’s. What gets me is the fact that the WTS runs such a guilt trip on anyone who does celebrate, saying you should worship “in spirit and in truth.” I think that the WTS forgot about the “spirit” part that Christ was talking about. In spirit AND in truth. Christmas is the spirit of Christ’s birth and not the actual true date or event. I say to those who get hung up on that fact should think of the spirit of the holiday and take as it is for people TODAY, and not what it was to someone 2500 years ago.

    PS. I also think that the JW’s have forgotten the truth part too.

  • January 2, 2016 at 1:32 pm

    I too have been set free after over 30 years as a slave to the watchtower ! My daughter never did get baptized or except the teachings of the watchtower, so now I’m enjoying my granddaughter singing Christmas songs and talking about Santa, I have to do it quietly though for you know who is watching ! Feels so good to be free ! There is one teaching I do agree with the watchtower, and that is you will know the truth and the truth will set you free ! I now know the truth and have been set free from the watchtower organization !

    • January 2, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      Right on! Know the Truth, and fight for Freedom by DECLARING the Truth!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • January 2, 2016 at 2:20 pm

    One lame reason WT Corp provides for not celebrating birthdays is that the only bible account of a birthday celebration included the beheading of a man (John the baptist), so yahweh must not be into birthday parties. That’s kinda like saying yahweh hates all Italian Governors because Pontius Pilate sentenced Jesus to execution.
    Bottom Line: The Watchtower Corporation is a KILLJOY. And that is 1 defining characteristic of a CONTROL FREAK.
    Control freaks do not want other people having fun without strings attached. ‘If they’re going to have fun, then those b*stards are going to have it MY WAY, WHEN & WHERE I say so.’ That’s what u call a ME-Monster.

    • January 2, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      …or…a MEanderthal

  • January 2, 2016 at 6:49 pm

    I just read an awesome piece on JWB (Jehovah’s Witness Blog – Denouncing Jehovah’s Kingdom) under Featured Articles — “Diary of an Armageddon Survivor”.
    5 Stars ***** !

  • January 2, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    At a lavish Good Friday banquet in the Vatican in 1514, Pope Leo X raised his chalice of wine and toasted, “How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for ourselves and our predecessors.”

    • January 2, 2016 at 8:11 pm

      RE: At a lavish Good Friday banquet in the Vatican in 1514, Pope Leo X raised his chalice of wine and toasted, “How well we know what a profitable superstition this fable of Christ has been for ourselves and our predecessors.”

      No source documention exists that provides even the slightest of evidence that this ever occurred.

      Until one learns to fully substantiate what one believes, and to not be a party to damaging rumor-mongering, one has not truly shed the cult state-of-mind they were groomed by the WTBTS to have.

      • January 2, 2016 at 11:30 pm

        Yeah, I’m really concerned about ruining the reputation of some dude who died 500 years ago, or of the Catholic Church itself! lol Sorry, but they didn’t have video or tape recorders back then, so u’ll NEVER get ur “documention” (guess ur spell-check needs tweaking). Besides, there’s no documentation that proves it DIDN’T happen. lol Apparently, Leo X was known for his debauchery (unless u know otherwise), so it’s not hard to believe those words came out of his mouth. If u need absolute proof, again, sorry, but I haven’t finished working on my Time Machine. lol Anyhow, do u REALLY believe all those Religious Bigwigs ACTUALLY believe the stories they tell their “flocks”? Or are they more like politicians, with prepared speeches, etc., etc., etc.? I’ll let u decide for urself, wouldn’t want u to be influenced by my “cult state-of-mind”. RFLMAO

        • January 3, 2016 at 4:37 pm

          Don’t be so certain. My Time Machine is nearing completion. Bwahahahahaha :)

          • January 4, 2016 at 12:23 pm

            Just remember too, PRO-Catholic scholars would NEVER record such a statement!!!

        • January 3, 2016 at 4:57 pm

          During my early years of departure, I bought literature that highlighted the parallels of pagan rituals and liturgies with Catholicism–Mithras, Ishtar, etc. I recall that the “Opus Dei” member I contacted at a Catholic bookstore I happened to mention this author cautioned that the mentioned author was anti-Catholic had been debunked and many of the parallels unfounded.

          But, Joseph Campbell’s literature remains loaded with the overall common features of myths–the slain deity that rises at spring, and is able to impart immortality to devotees. Yahweh deriving from a Canaanite deity of spring renewal and first-harvest (hence all the grain offerings of the “first fruits” (Pentecost) in Deuteronomy?). Plus, the stunning stories in Hindu which seem to precede Christian myths. And, unrefutable is the Epic of Gilgamesh that predates the Noah account.

  • January 2, 2016 at 7:49 pm

    It’s all about ego. The society’s ego. The society wants it’s followers to be separate from the world to the point of snobbery. A long time ago I remember a newly baptised sister saying it was hard for her to give up Mother’s Day because it disappointed her mother so badly. Every year on mother’s day she would get her mom a wonderful card and take her out for dinner and her mother looked forward to it every year. It was a special day for her. The sister hated giving it up. This is what the society is doing to people. I feel it’s a form of snobbery because of the fact they want their followers to be better than everyone (worldly people) It’s all smoke and mirrors.

    • January 2, 2016 at 11:13 pm

      — U nailed it!!!

    • January 2, 2016 at 11:51 pm

      “The society’s ego”… & don’t forget INDIVIDUAL egos! An Army of millions is still only made up of individual soldiers. If they lack belief & determination, that army is not an army. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. That’s why WT browbeats its members to “perform”, put in a minimum number of hours, attend ALL meetings, etc, etc, etc. Sure, many stay out of fear. But fear is not enough. People do or don’t do things for a reason. I believe most JW’s are there for a REASON.
      Like u said, EGO.

    • January 2, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      …The Snob Army

      • January 3, 2016 at 1:28 am

        I love that. The snob army. That’s so good. and it’s true. :)

  • January 3, 2016 at 11:03 am

    Great article!

  • January 4, 2016 at 6:44 am

    It is always good to get more insight into the crazy teachings of WT.thanks.

  • January 5, 2016 at 3:54 am

    Great article.
    I looked at to see their official reasons for not celebrating Christmas, and was instantly surprised at two points.

    First, they quote the New Catholic Encyclopedia for support that early Christians didn’t celebrate Christmas. Very surprising choice of quote considering how the Catholic Church is run by Satan. Therefore are they using quotes authorised by the Devil?
    Also, I doubt any JW’s would have a copy around the house to verify the quote as it would be inappropriate material for ‘true Christians’

    I seem to remember they also quote a book of Folklore as a source why you shouldn’t celebrate Birthdays. Also an unlikely book a JW would be allowed to have. Wouldn’t want the circuit overseer spotting that on your shelf!

    But the one that tickled me was this –
    ” The Bible encourages us to think for ourselves, to use our “power of reason.” (Romans 12:1, 2)

    If only my Mother, Father, Sister, Grandparents and Friends would think for themselves and use Power of Reasoning. I am just so thankful that I walked away without getting baptised. At least my family are still allowed to associate with me. And I got to celebrate Christmas with my other family members from the age of 15.

  • January 5, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    The way I think about Birthdays and Holidays is “don’t sweat the small stuff”. Is it really that important?
    Seems like the extra-holy GB want to impose their version of piety on everyone else instead of letting people make their own decisions.
    Aren’t there more important things to be concerned about?
    If the goal is to make people draw closer to God & his son, why put up more barriers for people?

  • January 6, 2016 at 11:18 am

    My husband and I went out for New Years Eve last week for the first time in 20 yrs. We actually accepted glittery hats, beads and a glass of bubbly about 11:30…I’m teary now thinking of midnight and that bittersweet but liberating moment of blowing our cheap, paper horns over and over as loud as we could while looking each other in the eye. If you’ve never been a jw, you might not believe what a big step this is. Cedars, thank you so much for your blog, this site and your information. To all involved in TTATT, Thank you. And Happy New Year!!!!

  • January 10, 2016 at 9:43 pm

    I was waiting for a new year as 2015 had many bad things happen in our lives, so along with many people are actually looking forward, 2016 is a long way from 1914, many of us never thought we would reach this age, this week i celebrate my birthday, privately we have our own tradition, i pause on the anniversary of both my parents death, one of my children is having a birthday in a few weeks, quite a milestone, so we will go away & secretly celebrate with some very trust worthy friends, as for xmas, again we get together & have time together with family & friends, we do get a day of don’t we,when the kids were young we would go away with other families & give wrapped gifts to each other, that all sounds quite reasonable to me, but no the grinch is not reasonable is he.

  • January 26, 2016 at 11:25 pm

    Myth of Christ quote widely attributed to Leo X, the earliest known source of this statement is actually a polemical work by the Protestant John Bale, the anti-Catholic Acta Romanorum Pontificum, which was first translated from Latin into English as The Pageant of the Popes in 1574: “For on a time when a cardinall Bembus did move a question out of the Gospell, the Pope gave him a very contemptuous answer saying: All ages can testifie enough how profitable that fable of Christe hath ben to us and our companie.” The Pope in this case being Leo X.

  • December 24, 2016 at 6:07 am

    I remember at the age of 5 in 1965…yes 5 years old people…I was expected to go into my Teacher and explain why I could not be an Angel in the school Nativity…I didn’t escape…I’m now 57…I’m very been free in my mind for three years..and sometimes I’m so angry on behalf of that little girl…the humiliations heaped upon her by stupid parents…why did my mother ever listen to that stupid religion?

    • December 24, 2016 at 1:10 pm

      Once again I’m awaiting moderation for hours…I’m just trying to get help really and your site is just making me feel small…just like JWs always did.. thanks…since Lloyd stopped having much to do with jw survey it’s not been the same.

      • December 26, 2016 at 10:28 am

        Dear Wideawake

        We are sorry that your comment was held up by the software. The entire JW Survey team has been traveling for the past 2 weeks, and unfortunately a small handful of comments were awaiting moderation, and we were not aware of it.

        If you are referring to the comment on the Christmas article, I have approved that comment, and thanks very much for sharing your thoughts. You are always welcome here. Should you ever encounter this problem again, just email us at our contact email address and we will fix the issue right away. We most certainly do not wish to make you feel small; we do everything we possibly can to give our readers a voice, which is something we never had in the JW organization. Merry Christmas and happy new year to you and your family



    • December 26, 2016 at 10:35 am


      Very well said. I believe you and I represent many tens of thousands of JWs still inside the organization who feel the same way. We experienced trauma from a very young age, being forced to explain our “stance” on Christmas and other holidays while secretly wanting to simply be a part of the culture surrounding us, to share with our friends and schoolmates the joys of celebrating common events such as birthdays and Christmas and Thanksgiving day. We not only missed out, but we were emotionally stunted in the process, carrying a burden which in my opinion amounts to child abuse. We will do everything we can to put an end to such manipulation and stress inducing forced behavior in our quest to leave this world just a little better than we found it.



    • December 26, 2016 at 11:33 am

      I concur. As small children we had no idea or understanding of what Christmas or Birthdays were about or why they were considered “bad.” We simply repeated whatever script our parents gave us. I believe the intent of the organization was a very insidious form of programming: from a very young age make us feel like outcasts in the world in order to maintain tight control as we grew.

      I can’t express how liberating it is to be able to say “Merry Christmas” to my friends and coworkers since having woken up from nearly 4 decades of mind control.


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