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Jehovah's Witnesses Divided Over Kwanzaa Celebration
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BROOKLYN, New York - Jehovah's Witnesses -- a Christian sect begun in the late 1800's, now claiming six million adherents worldwide -- are known for their staunch stance against the celebration of certain holidays. Their official web site says, "Christmas and its customs come from ancient false religions. The same is true of Easter." But what about Kwanzaa, a religion-neutral holiday with roots going back only to 1966? While the official Watchtower headquarters was unwilling to comment, the public face of Jehovah's Witnesses is divided on the issue.

"We do it, but it's not something we brag about."
-- Anonymous Jehovah's Witness
"If it's not pagan and it's not rooted in false worship, then I don't guess there'd be anything wrong with it," said one briefcase-carrying African-American woman, offering magazines to passers-by, "But I don't think I'd personally celebrate it." Better than half of Jehovah's Witnesses interviewed for this report felt similarly, that there is nothing wrong with Kwanzaa on its face, but they still would not join in. Twenty-five percent used the word "interfaith" to describe Kwanzaa and dismissed it on those grounds, believing any sort of interfaith activities to be sinful. But a large minority, over 15 percent, admitted that they do in fact secretly celebrate Kwanzaa with their families each year.

"It's not something we bring up with friends, like watching 'Harry Potter'. We do it, but it's not something we brag about," said one man offering tracts in a parking lot, "Bottom line: There's nothing wrong with it. It's just a week on the calendar. No religious ties, no pagan ties, it's clean. As for me and my household, we shall celebrate Kwanzaa."

A search of the Watchtower web site produced no information on Kwanzaa celebrations. One Witness speculated as to why the Watchtower has had little to say, "They don't like to comment on things that aren't Bible based. If it isn't from the Bible, then it's up to each individual's conscience. Like birthdays and blood transfusions, there's clear Bible backing for that. But watching a PG-13 movie? That's up to me."
--religion editor Jay W. Gnomer contributed to this report
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