Serena Williams’ daughter, Olympia, turns 1 on Saturday, but the family won’t be celebrating.
During a press conference for the 2018 U.S. Open, Williams discussed balancing her tennis career and motherhood. The 36-year-old and husband Alexis Ohanian welcomed Olympia, their first child together, on September 1, 2017. Her daughter’s birthday takes place while the tournament is still happening, but Williams will not be marking the milestone.
“Olympia doesn’t celebrate birthdays,” Williams said. “We’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, so we don’t do that.”
Pra cticing Jehovah’s Witnesses “do not celebrate birthdays because we believe that such celebrations displease God”
Even though “the Bible does not explicitly forbid celebrating birthdays,” the reasoning lies in biblical ideas, according to an FAQ on the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ official website.
Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that the tradition of celebrating birthdays is rooted in paganism, according to the FAQ. It also notes that the Bible doesn’t refer “to a servant of God celebrating a birthday,” and that early Christians didn’t celebrate them.
Williams doesn’t often speak out about her faith, but there have been a few moments when she opened up
According to Vogue, Williams became a Jehovah’s Witness in the 1980s, after her mother converted her. Fans who have followed her career know that she often acknowledges “Jehovah God” in her speeches following major wins.
Speaking to Vogue in 2017, the Grand Slam winner explained that despite Ohanian not being tied to any particular religion growing up, he is “curious about what he doesn’t know.”
“Being a Jehovah’s Witness is important to me, but I’ve never really practiced it and have been wanting to get into it,” she said. “Alexis didn’t grow up going to any church, but he’s really receptive and even takes the lead. He puts my needs first.”
Even though Williams doesn’t celebrate certain holidays, she FaceTimed Ohanian for his April 2016 birthday, according to Vanity Fair. She also said that she doesn’t “get involved in politics” because of her religion.
After the 2003 death of older sister Yetunde Price, Williams dedicated her 2007 Australian Open win to her late sibling. She later told The New York Times that the incident pushed her to try and “develop a better relationship with God.” She also attended Jehovah’s Witness meetings several times a week.
“You have a strong solid foundation, the Bible says, you won’t crack, but the man who built his house in the sand, his house went down spiritually,” Williams said in 2007. “I have a really strong foundation. That’s how I was raised.”
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