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It came to my attention from living, driving around and listening to Christian radio that many Protestants do not have any services on what Catholics would consider solemnities (Christmas and Easter in particular) and even the most lax Catholic will attend if only to appease their mother.

One of the precepts of the Catholic Church is to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation, another is to receive the Eucharist at least once a year, particularly during Lent. That's why Mass attendance ought to peak around Easter. But it would seem that some non-catholic congregations in the United States have adopted an opposite position.

If you asked any given pastor what the reasoning behind this is, what might they say?

  • I'm confused by some of your comments to answers. Are you looking for simply "why don't Protestants require or at least strongly expect attendance at Christmas/Easter" or is it "why don't Protestants think special Christmas and Easter services are necessary to have?" the latter being focused on having the services and the prior on members attending said services (which logically assumes they exist). FWIW every evangelical church I have attended for at least a year DID have increased attendance at services during those times. But it was often just the closest Sunday. Not separate service. – Joshua Jan 9 '17 at 4:25
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As far as I'm aware there's no biblical basis for requiring the church to gather at those specific times. For example there's no mention of Jesus' birth being explicitly celebrated as an occasion in Acts as far as I'm aware.

The congregation I belong to used to meet in a school as we didn't have our own building. We felt it was important to give the school caretakers a break at these times, so our church didn't meet during the school holidays (although we were encouraged to visit other churches or arrange other activities).

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I think the main point of confusion in your question is the following phrase:

at least once a year

Many protestants take that to a whole new level, and turn it completely on its head; if you're only going to church once or twice a year, something is seriously wrong. You should be at worship services more often than not. Protestants don't need to require attendance at this time, because members attend regularly anyway. Even when travelling, many will find a local place of worship and attend with the local congregation.

To put it another way, regularly missing worship service can be seen as an act of profanity.

Let me explain: The basic definition of the word "holy" is something that is set apart. Worship time is set apart for God — and so qualifies as holy. The definition of profanity is to take something that is holy and to make it common. Since worship time happens often, it is easy to allow other things to get in the way. Nevertheless, that is the very definition of profanity; something that is holy was made common.

A place where you can see this often is with school schedules. Events like band/choir concerts, theatre productions, and sports schedules can conflict with worship schedules. These school events seem special, but they are still common relative to worship, in that they are not dedicated to God; allowing them to take precedence over worship is nothing less than profanity.

This principle especially includes "special" days; for a protestant to not attend on Christmas or Easter would be profanity... just as it would be to miss other occasions for less-than-holy reasons.


There is another point of confusion as well, and that is the relationship between individuals, Christ, and the Church; protestants tend to view this very different than do Catholics. Protestants often simply do not believe the church has authority over them, to require anything like attendance on specific days. Rather, we are a "nation of priests", and are responsible directly to Christ alone. The church acts more like a support group — a commanded support group, but that's still a reduced role compared to Catholicism.


Finally, I present Romans 14:5

Some consider one day more sacred than another; others consider every day alike. Everyone should be fully convinced in their own mind. (NIV)

I normally hesitate to bring Romans 14 into these discussions, but this particular example from the chapter matches so directly with the question. I think it's obvious here that both opinions on the matter are expressly permitted.

  • Yeah, I'm not going to defend poor practices with my Catholic Bro's, but is that really a reason for not having a day set aside to remember Christ's Birth and Resurrection in communal prayer? Is this truly the justification that pastors give? – Peter Turner Sep 12 '11 at 19:11
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    Again, I think this misunderstands the relationship between protestant clergy and their flocks. Different groups can (and sometimes do) set the day aside, but clergy are not in a position to require attendance of anyone at any time. – Joel Coehoorn Dec 24 '12 at 3:41
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I think the reasons are quite practical. Many people are visiting family on holidays, and some of them prefer family time (which is rare) over going to church (which is possible all the time).

Protestants have no Sunday obligation, so missing church sometimes is not an issue to them.

  • Is that a modern thing or have protestants not been observing Christmas and Easter with some sort of service for a long time? – Peter Turner Sep 12 '11 at 18:53
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    @PeterTurner: All the Protestant churches I've frequented do have Christmas and Easter services. I'd guess it's rare not to have services at all, and a modern practice at that. – dancek Sep 12 '11 at 19:05
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At its most simplest level, Protestantism does not believe the church confers anything meaningful in salvation. The Protestant understanding of church is more akin to a teacher or a school than a dispensary of Sacrement. Fundamentally, a Protestant goes for the teaching, a Catholic for the mass. It's a generalization but it is a true and major difference.

This has a few implications:

  1. While nobody would encourage it, it is possible to skip lessons and still get what you need to know. (I'm cringing even as I write this- it's wrong, but it's pretty common) indeed, for many "advanced" (think sophomoric) Christians, it is tempting to assume they've already "learned" all there is to know about this "lesson".

  2. Protestants dislike ritual. There is a reason Cromwell was an iconoclast and a destructive one at that. Some Baptists even think the Lords Prayer can become "vain repetition" and let's face it, it's not easy to keep a service traditional and fresh.

  3. Protestants tend to reject anything that smacks of "saving works". This is why they reject sacremental theology generally. Grace is a gift, not based on anything you do- even going to church.

  4. Ask an old line Baptist or other radical anti-Catholic, and they'll readily tell you: the Pope requires his subjects to go to these holy day ceremonies. And if it's good enough for a Catholic, reasons the anti-Papist, its clearly from Satan. (I wish I was exaggerating)

Am I saying these are right? No. But the Protestant mindset is geared in many ways to reject the "need" for going to special sacremental obligations. Church on high holy days is easily one of those things.

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I think it is true that some Protestants do not think of any day more holy than any other day. This is actually my belief, all days are equally holy. Therefore, it really does not matter which days one prefers to go to church.

It is true that Protestants generally respect the tradition that Sunday is a sort of preferred worship day as the day he rose, but few are that legalistic about it.

I confess that Christmas is one of the few days of the year I have never gone to church, because I like to practice the secular traditions associated with it to recall my good childhood memories. Once converted to Christianity I mever really adopted a Christian Christmas per se because all days are equal according to my faith. The truth is I like to sleep in, grab a coffee and open presents then have turkey later on. Adding some vacation and family makes it Christmas for me. That 'Jesus is the reason for the season' makes the secular festival all the more enjoyable for me as I tend to think about the incarnation with joy. But I do it at home.

Ironically I heard a sermon this morning that said 'I should' come to the Christmas service, which made me chuckle a bit because he seemed so frustrated with those who did not share his opinion and was so not in the Christmas spirit. Yet it did not matter, I did not let myself be judged but rather let my mind wander into the majestic view of God's glory in the infant Jesus.

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. (Colossians 2:16, ESV)

I really like Christmas.

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I'll answer from a Lutheran perspective (I'm a Lutheran pastor in the LCMS), just to note that Lutherans are sacramental and (for the most part) liturgical. In fact, I've been to many a Catholic wedding and our services (i.e. Lutheran and Catholic) are extremely similar.

We encourage people to attend church services at all times (i.e. every Sunday), because we believe that God works through the proclamation of the Gospel and the administration of the Sacraments (i.e. His "means of grace") to create and sustain faith.

We also celebrate the feasts of the Church such as Christmas, Easter, The Name and Circumcision of Jesus, the Baptism of Jesus, All Saints Day, etc...

In addition, we celebrate the seasons of the Church year (Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent (including Ash Wednesday), Holy Week (including Maundy Thursday and Good Friday - many congregations also hold an Easter vigil while others just celebrate on Easter day), Pentecost (including Trinity Sunday and the Last Sunday of the Church Year). We also celebrate Reformation Sunday (the Sunday closest to Oct. 31st, but prior to All Saints Day on Nov. 1st), which Catholics obviously do not.

In my own congregation, we are a small mission church in Georgia and meet in a community center, so we have to make some adjustments. For example, for Christmas and New Year's we don't want to have to have someone from the community center work those days, so we hold services outside.

I have noticed, however, that many other protestant churches (i.e. non-Lutheran) do not hold services on Christmas or during Holy Week.

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