G is 39 years old, he was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia and moved to Los Angeles three years ago. He explained why he did not celebrate birthdays growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness in a conversation with me.
“I don’t know if this is a legend of a myth… I grew up a Jehovah’s Witness and we never celebrated birthdays, and the reason we never celebrated birthdays was because in the bible every time someone had a birthday… well my parents told me… and I never researched to see if it was true… but someone would die, or there would be a fire or get decapitated and I always wanted a birthday but I was afraid I would die or be decapitated on my birthday. I think the first birthday I celebrated… I was in college, and it was my 21st birthday, I went to school in Savannah and my friends took me out to River Street. I was not scared, I was actually really excited… by that time I knew people weren’t dying on their birthdays!”
The Jehovah’s Witness website gives a few reasons for not celebrating birthday. The main one seems to be because it is considered a pagan celebration and there is mention of only two birthdays in the bible; in Genesis 40: 20-22 There is a beheading and a birthday thrown by the Pharoah and in Mark 6: 20-21 another beheading on Herod’s birthday. https://www.jw.org/en/jehovahs-witnesses/faq/birthdays/
It’s supposed to be a warning tale. Basically the story is that back in the seventies, there were some kids that were Jehovah’s Witnesses that got really interested in Dungeons and Dragons and played it a lot. They got the idea that it would very cool if they could trap a demon themselves. So they decided they would glue a bunch of Watchtower magazines to this box and the walls or something – they were in a garage. And then they would do a summoning incantation to summon the demon…and they happened to summon a demon, but it wasn’t as easy as catching the demon in a box. And the boys were stuck in the garage for a long time, like quite a few hours, umm…but when their family finally got them out, one of the boys was dead and two of the other ones were like insane basically, and they were never okay after that.
I’m not sure how far outside of California this story goes, but there are different people I’ve talked to that have kind of said that story or some version of it that those people were alive in the seventies and stuff. And I got to hearing it because, you know, there are different card games and stuff that you grow up with that are usually kind fantasy based like, every generation seems to have them now. So when I got interested in certain card games, that was a kind of story my dad would tell me to get me to not play or throw it away or why he would throw it away. Funny thing, like, he liked Lord of the Rings a lot, but he kept it really hidden, really quiet cause he didn’t want other people in the church knowing, because it was satanic. It had magic in it and it had monsters and stuff like that.
It’s pretty clear by what my informant said, that this legend is meant to scare kids, and probably adults too, away from anything associated with the occult, magic, monsters, or anything deemed unnatural and dangerous by the congregation. My informant heard this legend from multiple people, particularly his father and stepmother as well as people who claimed to know the congregation where the legend occurred. The purpose of legends like this, with their essences of possibility and truth, is to keep people in line and keep them obedient. I’m skeptical of all organized religion, but particularly those that foster a culture and lore of fear to keep the followers “faithful.”