“Let’s do away with Christian public holidays” — Wilmot

Carnage on the busy roads over Easter and Christmas are reason to scrap these public holidays, says Rev Lawrie Wilmot.

[notice]Retired clergyman Reverend Lawrie Wilmot shares his point of view on the current public hearings into whether Christian holidays should be removed from the list of public holidays.[/notice]

I am a born-again and Spirit-filled believer. However I am in favour of taking our Christian holidays out of the secular calendar. Surprising? Shocking? Read on!

First of all, and most unfortunately, we have a constitution in our country which although enlightened and progressive in so many ways, does not acknowledge the Father Almighty’s sovereignty, which of course means that our Lord Jesus’s sovereignty isn’t acknowledged either. This is history. So, logically, why should any religious group have it’s holidays acknowledged and all the others omitted? For that reason I am in favour of taking all Christian holidays out.

However there is a much more pressing and urgent reason to do away with the current Christian public holidays. Just look at the carnage on our roads over the Easter weekend and over the Christmas season. It goes through me like a knife every time a newsreader reads out the latest figures of how many have died on our roads during the ‘festive season.’ What a mockery of our Lord, the Prince of Peace, whose official birthday we celebrate at that time of the year, and who is, as the well-known Christian slogan puts it, ‘The reason for the season.’

In the late 80’s I launched a national campaign, via the Anglican Church, entitled ‘Preserve your life.’ It’s central message was a call to all Christians not to travel over Christmas and Easter, but rather to worship in their home congregations. I proposed that if anyone really had to travel during these times  they use public transport, preferably the airways or railways. The benefits would be twofold: firstly the numbers of vehicles on our roads would be significantly reduced (are not around 80 per cent of South Africans Christians?) and secondly, pastors would not see their regular congregations severely depleted. Why is it that just the leaders we need over Christmas and Easter decide to go away at these times? I speak as an agonised pastor!

So please: I am issuing a counter-call to encourage the Government go right ahead and remove the Christmas and Easter holidays. May it happen soon!

So, you may ask, ‘ Will Christmas still happen?’ My reply to that is to refer to a delightful children’s book entitled ‘How the Grinch stole Christmas’. I think it is by Richard Scarry. The story is that a mythical creature, a Grinch, decided to ‘steal’ Christmas from a little isolated dorp. On Christmas Eve he took down all the street decorations, rerouted Santa Claus, and went down all the chimneys and stole the Christmas stockings. Then he stole away chuckling evilly. And what happened on Christmas Day? Yes, there were lots of tears from all the children but to the Grinch’s utter dismay everyone still went to church, Christmas was still celebrated, and everyone still had their Christmas dinners. Get the point?

So: since when did we as the Church ever depend on the Government to make Christmas or Easter happen for us? Sounds ridiculous when put that way, doesn’t it? And, incidentally, as we all know, 25th December is not the actual day Christ was born.

Ascension Day has already gone. So what have I done as a pastor since then? Observed it as usual. Simple. Yes, it does mean that we now only have an evening service and the numbers are depleted, but since when was the observance of a major event in Christ’s life on earth dependent on the numbers attending church?

And there is yet another angle to this whole question. The Muslims observe their religious holidays irrespective of work commitments, and their pay is reduced. Why can’t we also gladly sacrifice a few days’ pay for the sake of our Lord Jesus and as a witness? Let’s go back to celebrating Christ’s birth on the date we believe it took place, and let’s similarly continue to take Good Friday and Holy Saturday off work. Why take Easter Monday?

So, in this article I am issuing a counter-call. Encourage the Government to remove all Christian holidays from the calendar. And then see, incidentally, how business people, who profit very handsomely, thank you, out of Christmas feel it!
Without sounding blasphemous, our Lord Jesus is good for business!
Every blessing, and a blessed Christmas to you all.


  1. Could not agree with you more for all the reasons you mention. I know that the Christmas shutdown has always been a problem for export orientated manufacturing businesses, specifically those exporting to the northern hemisphere. We will, however, as Christian leaders have to encourage our congregants not to neglect the time of rest these periods often force upon us.

  2. Wilmot makes some sense in certain respects. On one hand, it would certainly sort out the genuine believers from the hedonistic cultural hangers-on. It might also be a way to undercut the rampant commercialisation, but I’ve noticed that Hindu and Muslim festivals also have their commercialised aspects. Regarding the road carnage, it will probably just be transferred to other long weekends, especially around March-April. Overall, however, around 70% of South Africans have some sort of Christian affiliation, and I very much doubt if the doing away of the three major holy days as public holidays will go down well (just think of the ZCC’s pilgrimage every Easter weekend). For me, Pascha and Christmas are times when one can proclaim the Gospel and Lordship of Jesus Christ more boldly, and when else but Christmas can one hear this in the shops? I always pray that the Lord will use the carols to touch hearts and draw people to himself. It was through wanting to impart to my oldest, then a toddler, that Christmas is about more than getting, that I, then an agnostic, got out an old KJV Bible and read the Christmas story to him, and that was the beginning of the Lord drawing me to himself.

  3. I am inclined to agree with Lawrie Wilmot as it will should put Christ back into Christmas for the Christians.
    How many people celebrate Xmas (note: no Christ) just for the sake of having one hell’ve party.
    Honestly, I thoink if the government cancelled XMas, they would probably be lynched.
    Jokes aside, it would probably bring about a more sincere Christmas celebration for the christians.

  4. Claude Cunningham

    For what it is worth, there is remarkable evidence that the Magi arrived on 25 December, from a credible RSA theologian:
    On 25 January 2008 I attended a talk given by Dr Chris Peppler, principal of the SA Theological Seminary, and for the first time ever heard a credible account of what the Magi could have followed. There was a unique series of combinations of planets in the Zodiac between 3 BC and 2 BC. Dr Peppler followed the movements of the stars using astronomical software, and speculates that the Magi would have arrived at Bethlehem on 25 December in 2 BC, and that Jesus was born on 22 September of 3 BC. From ‘Revelation in the Stars’ by Dr Christopher Pepper. Chrispy Publications, Lonehill, South Africa. ISBN 978-0-620-39944-9. Pages 49-51.

  5. We will not be done in or robbed of anything with the removal of these dates.om the contrary, we will remember who we are and what we are here for. Fathers hand is in this move because He has clearly instructed us regarding days and feasts.The world has pagan feasts not us.

  6. Hugh G Wetmore

    Thanks for this provocative article. Actually, the accident death-toll over Christmas and Easter is over-rated. Fewer people die at these times, per km travelled than on ordinary weekends. As for celebrating Christmas on the wrong date – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that Jesus Christ gets more attention one day in the year, even if only for commercial reasons (which is why Business is the reason why it will never be abolished. It has the potential to raise His profile in our secular society, if we use that potential. I disagree with Melvin – God ordained Jewish feast-holidays, so why not have Christian feast-holidays? To commemorate God-events? Passover coincides with Easter. We are in the conversion business – converting sinners to saints, theatres to churches, pagan holidays to Christian holidays.

  7. I have already noted how business promote Christmas without Christ as a time of peace,joy and family instead of a time to celebrate His coming to earth as our Saviour. It is a subtle deception already at work. I believe we should never compromise the truth and if the way these days are celebrated is in compromise to the truth then let them go. God wants us to spread the Gospel 24/7. On these particular days as well as others. I believe if we celebrated Christmas and Easter as Christians anyway (with the Public Holidays taken away) we would probably have more of an impact on non believers by standing firm and contending the faith. Yes I think we may also be persecuted more if we stand out amongst the rest but then that is what we should expect. I will worship Him during the good times as well as the bad but on Christmas I will celebrate His coming to earth and His sacrifice for us on Easter. Public Holidays or not. In the end it is about his Word and (in my humble yet steadfast opinion) nothing else.

  8. Brett Smitsdorff

    Regret I have to diagree with the good reverend. I cannot agree with his logic or the contents of his arguements. When last I checked there is still a signficant number of practising Christians in our country. In addition to that many nominal believers attend churches on Christmas and other Christian holidays. If anything the celebration of these ‘holy’-days serve to nurture faith. Christmas in particular is also a day on which families worship together and each year we witness whole families in attendance. The ‘holy’-day is spent with family. I can hardly imagine that being possible if everyone is at work. the arguement about the carnage on the roads is misdirected. The real solution is better policing and legislation against unroadworthy vehicles. That would reduce carnage all year round and not just at these holidays. If that arguement was apllied to all public holidays – which it should – then we may as well dispense with all public holidays in the interest of road safety, but where’s the fun in that (lol). We do not rely on the government to make any day sacred. The government recognizes that there are countless millions of adherents of a faith in it’s country – faith that is integral to their existance and endorses the practice of faith by allowing religious public holidays. Religion is part of a nation’s culural and spiritual heritage. By assisting citizens in the practise of their religion and culture, the government cultivates a nation’s soul. And who is this ‘government’ anyway? The last tiome I looked, the government receives it’s mandate from its citizens and not vice versa. If the citizens who put the government into place in the first instance wish to celebrate their faith and wish to have reasonable amounts of time off to do so, who is the government to argue. We already ‘celebrate’ a number of public holidays which the government has initiated. These are not well patronised, except that celebrants are given free parties at the expense of the tax payer. If we want to start saving the economy money, let’s start removing those holidays and save the taxpayer huge bills. I couldn’t diagree with the article more. If anything we need greater endorsement of religious obervances at a time in our society when there is an overwhelming urge to secularise our society and remove all semblance of faith from the public arena. Removing the last few religious public holidays would be a great boost for the secularization of society – the very opposite outcome I hope) of which the reverend intends.