If pagan ceremonies, customs, god names, etc. are really mixed in with ceremonies, customs, etc. that we use today, they are not merely unacceptable - they are detestable to God. We must completely get away from these unclean things and not even "touch" them. (2 Cor. 6:17) Notice how exclusive the worship of God must be: "Be careful to do everything I have said to you. Do not invoke the names of other gods; do not let them be heard on your lips." - Exodus 23:13, NIVSB.
It would be wrong to incorporate anything used for pagan worship, into our worship or related activities. Holidays, for example, are "Holy Days" and are a part of "worship", by their very name.
Yet with a little wishful thinking, some have referred to only one Scripture (Rom. 14:6) in order to rationalize that pagan-based holiday celebrations and customs are pleasing to God. But is this Scripture really referring to pagan-based holiday celebrations and customs? What does Romans 14:6 say and what does it really mean?
Examining Romans 14:6
Let's examine this single reference to God's word. A partial quote of Romans 14:6: "He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord." This is a quote from one of Christendom's most highly-regarded Bible translations: The NIV Study Bible. Let's continue to use this same study Bible to analyze what Paul was telling us in Romans 14.
Romans 14:1, 5, 6 in this Bible says:
"Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters .... One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord." - NIVSB.
The footnote for Romans 14:1 tells us Paul is probably writing this about
"Jewish Christians at Rome who were unwilling to give up the observance of certain requirements of the [Mosaic] law, such as dietary restrictions and the keeping of the Sabbath and other special days [given to the Jews by Jehovah].... They were not yet clear as to the status of OT [Old Testament] regulations under the new covenant inaugurated by the coming of Christ... Fellowship among Christians is not to be based on everyone's agreement on disputable questions. Christians do not agree on all matters pertaining to the Christian life, nor do they need to." - NIVSB.
The footnote for Rom. 14:5 in the NIVSB tells us:
"Some feel that this refers primarily to the Sabbath, but it is probably a reference to all the special days of the [Old Testament] ceremonial law."
Obviously, Paul is saying, according to this mainstream study Bible, that it was no longer necessary to observe the special days that were given to God's people in the Mosaic Law. However, Paul didn't think it was wrong for some of the Jewish Christians (at that time) to continue to observe special days that Jehovah Himself had previously given them if they wished to.
So Paul is telling us that the man who considers a special day (of the Old Testament as given by Jehovah to the Israelites) more sacred than another is still acceptable to the Lord. (There is good reason to believe that Paul is specifically referring to Sabbath days here.) This in no way contradicts other commandments in the Bible to strictly avoid pagan customs; don't even touch the unclean things!
Even Martin Luther didn't feel it was wrong for Christians to observe special days given by Jehovah in the Old Testament. He wrote,
"Neither is it true that the Old Testament [Law] was abolished in such a way that ... it would be wrong for anyone to keep it in full.... It is indeed abolished in the sense that we are free to keep it or not keep it, and it is no longer necessary to keep it on penalty of one's soul, as was formerly the case." - Martin Luther, p. 376.
So we are free to observe or not many of the things of the Mosaic Law. We can circumcise our sons. We can rest on the Sabbath. We can do things that were once required in the Mosaic Law and not be condemned for it. But we cannot do things that God considers an abomination to him. We cannot include foreign gods in our worship. We cannot embrace pagan religious customs.
"Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and burn their Asherah [also known as Astarte, Ishtar, or Eastre] poles in the fire; cut down the idols of their gods and wipe out their names from those places....be careful not to be ensnared by inquiring about their gods, saying, `How do these nations serve their gods? We will do the same.' You must not worship the LORD your God in their way." - Deut. 12:3, 4, 30, 31, NIVSB. The footnote for Deut. 12:4 says, "The rituals and accessories of idolatrous worship were not to be used to worship the Lord, the one true God."
For more, see:
Rom. 14:5, 6, 17, 22, 23 (Insight, Volume 2 pp. 1162-1164)
Jehovah's Witnesses and Holidays - Links to Information (Defend Jehovah's Witnesses)