If you thought the only thing on Serena Williams' schedule this week was the U.S Open, think again — her daughter, Alexis Olympia, will have her very first birthday this Saturday. Due to their religious background, however, the pressure will not be on the Williams-Ohanian family to throw a lavish birthday party. In fact, Williams' faith dictates they do the very opposite.
During a press conference last weekend, Williams mentioned they won't be celebrating Olympia's birthday at all. "We're Jehovah's Witnesses, so we don't do that," she explained. That may sound like a bummer for Alexis Olympia, but it's a foundational part of Jehovah's Witnesses' way of life.
According to JW.org, the official online resource for Jehovah's Witnesses, birthdays are thought to "displease God" in part due to their supposed roots in Paganism. Birthday celebrations can be traced back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman customs, but early Christians viewed their beliefs as "pagan" and thus not in line with the Church. Though most Christian denominations allow followers to celebrate their birthdays now, Jehovah's Witnesses still adhere to this rule.
Beyond birthdays' association with pagan celebrations, Jon Wood, PhD, assistant professor of religion at George Washington University, tells Refinery29 that Jehovah's Witnesses believe in "the democratic sanctity of all time," or the idea that no day is holier than the next. Naturally, celebrating the day that someone was born, and choosing not to make every other day feel as special, would violate that principle.
It isn't only birthdays that Jehovah's Witnesses choose not to celebrate. Given their interpretation of the Bible, they believe that they're meant to observe the death of Jesus Christ and not his resurrection — meaning they don't celebrate Easter in the traditional sense. This interpretation also explains why Jehovah's Witnesses don't observe Christmas, either. It's Jesus' death, not his birth, that they believe needs to be commemorated.
And, while they might not celebrate birthdays or these major holidays, one event that Jehovah's Witnesses absolutely do observe are funerals — they believe in taking time to grieve for the dead and to memorialize them with a modest program.
At any rate, given how much Williams adores her daughter (back in May she told Refinery29 she was "a little obsessed" with her), we're willing to bet that Olympia will still have a great day this Saturday, even if she won't be blowing out any candles.