It's 5:50a, and I am up. Getting ready for my trip to South Carolina! I have to leave for the airport by 6:30a.. And I know I have forgotten to put SOMETHING in my suitcase..


Valentine's Day..

To some, Valentine's Day is to celebrate love and happiness. To me, it's a way to give money to the card industry. The way I see it, nobody was buying any Groundhog's day cards and they needed to make some money.

According to Hallmark, V-Day sells 188 million Valentine's Day cards a year. That doesn't even include the classroom card exchange with the cardboard shoe boxes! With that, it's one billion, taking second to Christmas.

Fifty million roses are sent each year. Fifteen percent of women buy flowers for themselves to make themselves feel better that they can't find a guy. This is what our society has come to.

Valentine's Day started out okay. It's a very old and religious holiday centered around Saint Valentine. Valentine's Day was an ancient Roman tradition. I guess with the Roman Empire, the original idea died, too. Emperor Claudius II decided young men should be soldiers, so he outlawed marriage. Valentine was upset and spoke out. He was thrown into prison and put to death. Before his death, Valentine wrote a letter to his love and signed it, "From your Valentine."

Not much else is known about St. Valentine. In fact, they aren't sure who it is. It is between three random clergymen - a priest in Rome, a bishop, and some random guy in Africa.

That's cool, but does anyone go to church on Valentine's Day? How many people even know the story of St. Valentine? Cupid, the baby who flies around in a diaper shooting love arrows, is the son of Venus, the goddess of beauty. Yep, Roman mythology. He fell in love with Psyche. Venus was jealous of her beauty and killed Psyche. Cupid brought her back to life and they lived happily ever after.

The history of Valentine's Day--and the story of its patron saint--is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine's Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition. But who was Saint Valentine, and how did he become associated with this ancient rite?

The Catholic Church recognizes at least three different saints named Valentine or Valentinus, all of whom were martyred. One legend contends that Valentine was a priest who served during the third century in Rome. When Emperor Claudius II decided that single men made better soldiers than those with wives and families, he outlawed marriage for young men. Valentine, realizing the injustice of the decree, defied Claudius and continued to perform marriages for young lovers in secret. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

Other stories suggest that Valentine may have been killed for attempting to help Christians escape harsh Roman prisons, where they were often beaten and tortured. According to one legend, an imprisoned Valentine actually sent the first "valentine" greeting himself after he fell in love with a young girl--possibly his jailor's daughter--who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, it is alleged that he wrote her a letter signed "From your Valentine," an expression that is still in use today. Although the truth behind the Valentine legends is murky, the stories all emphasize his appeal as a sympathetic, heroic and--most importantly--romantic figure. By the Middle Ages, perhaps thanks to this reputation, Valentine would become one of the most popular saints in England and France.

While some believe that Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death or burial--which probably occurred around A.D. 270--others claim that the Christian church may have decided to place St. Valentine's feast day in the middle of February in an effort to "Christianize" the pagan celebration of Lupercalia. Celebrated at the ides of February, or February 15, Lupercalia was a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, as well as to the Roman founders Romulus and Remus.

To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat's hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city's bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.

Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity and but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”--at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine's Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds' mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine's Day should be a day for romance.

Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages, though written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400. The oldest known valentine still in existence today was a poem written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London following his capture at the Battle of Agincourt. (The greeting is now part of the manuscript collection of the British Library in London, England.) Several years later, it is believed that King Henry V hired a writer named John Lydgate to compose a valentine note to Catherine of Valois.

In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France and Australia. In Great Britain, Valentine's Day began to be popularly celebrated around the 17th century. By the middle of the 18th, it was common for friends and lovers of all social classes to exchange small tokens of affection or handwritten notes, and by 1900 printed cards began to replace written letters due to improvements in printing technology. Ready-made cards were an easy way for people to express their emotions in a time when direct expression of one's feelings was discouraged. Cheaper postage rates also contributed to an increase in the popularity of sending Valentine's Day greetings.

Americans probably began exchanging hand-made valentines in the early 1700s. In the 1840s, Esther A. Howland began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America. Howland, known as the “Mother of the Valentine,” made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap." Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated 1 billion Valentine’s Day cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.) Women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

Ever since I was a child, I thought it was dumb. What was the point of giving 3-cent valentine cut outs to the girl or boy who ate glue or stole your lunchbox? And you can't escape! It's everywhere. Major retail stores put out the candies in December!! The “Every Kiss Begins With Kay Jewelers” commercial started in January. Today on the radio there was a commercial demanding guys get their girls diamonds. Even three percent of pet owners give valentines to their cats and dogs.

Make it stop!

If you learned anything from my rant, you should know that Valentine's Day isn't about the material objects like cards, flowers, and candy. It's about this hopelessly romantic man, who died loving a woman, or about a bunch of priestesses flogging people with bloody goat skins.. but no one cares.

If we are going to celebrate this holiday, we need to do it right. I'm not saying get rid of the candy and flowers; just remember the traditions. Maybe, just maybe, we can all make it through another year. Now, where did I put that goat?


The Road Not Taken..

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always been a bit.. different. Most of you reading this know of my childhood, and the simple fact that it is amazing that I have lived this long. A large part of that success I attribute to my taking ‘the road not taken’. Robert Frost summed it up nicely in his poem, which I memorized while in the third grade. It’s appropriate for my life, I feel.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I marked the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

No one who knows me could ever say I have traveled the path most others travel. I have rebelled in almost every aspect of life at one time or another, and reveled in the notoriety of being a social outcast, by my own choosing. “Society” being what it is today, I am perfectly fine with that.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately as to just who I am. I have many names, and wear many masks. I am Husband, Lover, Friend, Son, Brother, Friend, Protector, Adviser, Guide, Mentor.. but who am **I**, when it comes down to it? At the end of it all, when they lay my body into the ground, what am I going to be remembered for, and by whom? What impact am I having on this world, and am I making it a better place? Has the path I have chosen afforded me the pleasure of making the world a better place, or have I been deluding myself all these years?

Well, be that as it may, I am getting my life back on a schedule now, and setting things in order.  You may look forward to more posts from me, and continuous updates. I’ll be spending more time on the Runes page, as well as the Ogham page, as we take this journey through the roads less traveled..

Take my hand, and journey with me further down the road into my psyche, that twisted path of fun, the road less traveled…


Reorganizing life.. oh, and the blogs..

After much deliberation, and confusion in the posts, I have decided to create separate blogs for all of the different areas on study and what-not. Hopefully this will help make the blogs easier to read, ad the information easier to find. So, take a look at the left hand side, up at the top, and you will see links to all the different blog pages now. HOME on each blog will bring you back here.
Happy reading! And be sure to leave a comment or two, let me know whacha think of the blogs. These are fun to make, and informative, but they are time consuming to do, and it would be nice to know I’m not just spinning my wheels out here in cyber land!


How to legally become a Scottish Lord or Lady!

Why should you buy a title?  <----- clicky clicky..

If you are looking for a meaningful gift for “the person who has everything”; then look no further. This is the ultimate novelty gift from Scotland, and one that will certainly never be put to one side and forgotten. This is a present that will increase in value and significance as the years go by. The title can be enjoyed immediately (and as the Telegraph so famously stated, "the Titled always get seats in Restaurants"!). The land can be visited at any time and used in any way you choose. Your estate can also be sold at any time (for a profit if land values have risen as they usually do) by the new owner, or left in a will to benefit future generations of the family.
Purchasing your very own Highland Estate will give you the legal right to call yourself a Laird, Lord, or Lady. Using the paperwork that we provide, you can change your bank accounts, credit cards, driving license and other official ID which will result immediately in you being shown the respect you deserve. Friends and colleagues will be impressed and envious whenever you mention it. After all, how many people do you know who own a beautiful Scottish Highland Estate with all the rights that go with it?
When you purchase this land you will also benefit from the knowledge that you are making a positive contribution to the environment. By splitting the woodland into the ownership of hundreds of different people it ensures that no developer can ever acquire it and use it for their own gain, to the detriment of the area. By planting additional trees, carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere by the process of carbon sequestration. But perhaps most importantly the woodland is home to many species of Scottish flora and fauna, and it can be enjoyed by people as an area of peace, quiet, and tranquillity.


Happy Christmashannakwanzika? Wait.. WHAT??

Ok.. just a thought here.. "Keep Christ in Christmas".. "Say Merry Christmas, not Happy Holidays".. umm.. fine and good.. but do ya'll realize that, by the biblical reckoning, Jesus was most likely born in September, not December? December 25th was a date usurped by the early Christians from a multitude of Pagan celebrations, most notably Yule, from the Europeans.. Just saying..

Most biblical scholars and preachers readily admit that they know Christ was not born on December 25th.  However, they claim that this day is as good as any other to celebrate the birth of Jesus, despite the fact that it was originally a pagan celebration called Saturnalia which commemorated the birth of the sun god.

God had this to say about appropriating pagan methods of worship and trying to honor Him with them:

    DEUTERONOMY 12:28 "Observe and obey all these words which I command you, that it may go well with you and your children after you forever, when you do what is good and right in the sight of the LORD your God.  29 When the LORD your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, 30 take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.'  31 "You shall not worship the LORD your God in that way; for every abomination to the LORD which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.  32 Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it. (NKJV)

So, according to the Bible, God doesn't even want us celebrating Christmas in December, since it was an arbitrary date adopted from PAGAN RITUALS used to conform pagans to the Christian thoughts. Wait.. what? Yes. You can see from the verses above that God hates it when we celebrate like the Pagans did.. therefore, if we are going to celebrate Jesus' birth, we should do so in September. Why September? Well, few know that there is a biblical way to determine when the Messiah was actually born, and that it was actually (most likely) in September.  We can do this by relating the conception and birth of Jesus (Yeshua) with the conception and birth of John the Baptist.

Let's begin our scriptural detective work in the 1st chapter of Luke:

    LUKE 1:5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah.  His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.  6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. (NKJV)

First, we need to understand "the division of Abijah."  We find in 1 Chronicles 24:1-19 that the descendants of Aaron's 24 grandsons (the sons of Eleazer and Ithamar) were divided into 24 divisions or courses for the purpose of serving at the Temple.  1 Chronicles 24:10 tells us that the 8th division of service was assigned to Abijah's descendants.

Each of these divisions served at the Temple for an eight-day period (1 Chr. 9:25).  The service began and ended on the weekly Sabbath (2 Chr. 23:8).  In addition to their normal service, all 24 courses served at the Temple during the three holy seasons every year.  The Jewish Mishnah indicates that each course served a week during the first half of the year, the three annual festival weeks, and a week during the last half of the year, for a total of five weeks during a normal year.

A normal year on the Hebrew calendar consists of twelve lunar months of 29 or 30 days, for a total of 354 days.  This is about 11 days less than a solar year (365.24 days).  During a regular Jewish year (which occurs 12 times in a 19-year cycle), 51 weeks of coverage would be needed to ensure that the Temple was cared for every week throughout the year.

24 (first half of the year) + 3 (festival weeks) + 24 (second half of the year) = 51 weeks

Between the 1st and the 9th week of the year, two of the three festival times when all 24 courses served occurred.  Therefore, the course of Abijah, the 8th course, would serve its first regular week during the 9th or 10th week of the year (depending on how the Feast of Weeks fell on the calendar).

For reference, here is an annotated Jewish calendar for the period of time under consideration.

With that background, now let's review the conception of John the Baptist:

    LUKE 1:8 So it was, that while he [Zacharias] was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the Temple of the Lord.  10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense.  11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.  12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.  13 But the angel said to him, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.  15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink.  He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb.  16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  17 He will also go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, 'to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."  18 And Zacharias said to the angel, "How shall I know this?  For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years."  19 And the angel answered and said to him, "I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings.  20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time."  21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the Temple.  22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the Temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.  23 And so it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house.  24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 "Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people." (NKJV)

Zacharias' wife Elizabeth would have conceived John the Baptist shortly following the week of his service at the Temple.  This would have been sometime in late Sivan or early Tamuz.

Now let's switch our focus and take a look at Elizabeth's young relative, Mary:

    LUKE 1:26 Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth's pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin's name was Mary.  28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"  29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was.  30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.  31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a son, and shall call his name JESUS.  32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.  33 And he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end."  34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"  35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.  37 For with God nothing will be impossible."  38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word."  And the angel departed from her. (NKJV)

The Holy Spirit likely overshadowed Mary very soon after her encounter with the angel Gabriel.  If John the Baptist was conceived in the two week period after Sivan 19, Jesus would have been conceived about six months later, at the end of the Hebrew month Kislev or the beginning of the month Tevet.  Mary would probably have conceived Jesus sometime from Kislev 24 to Tevet 7.  Kislev 25 is the beginning of the Feast of Chanukah, also known as the Festival of Lights.  This eight-day feast continues to Tevet 2.

Jesus observed the Feast of Chanukah (called the "Feast of Dedication" in John 10:22) while he was on earth.  John gives us an indication that Jesus was in fact conceived during this Festival of Lights (Chanukah) when he speaks of him at the beginning of his Gospel:

    JOHN 1:4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  7 This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the light, that all through him might believe.  8 He was not that light, but was sent to bear witness of that light.  9 That was the true light which gives light to every man coming into the world. (NKJV)

Quickly after Gabriel's visit, Mary went to see her relative Elizabeth:

    LUKE 1:39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (NKJV)

    LUKE 1:56 And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her house. (NKJV)

It appears that Mary stayed with Elizabeth right up to the time for her to give birth.  The average time for the gestation of a human baby is nine months/40 weeks/280 days.  Nine months from the time of John's conception in early Tamuz would bring us to Passover of the Jewish year 3756 in the 1st month called Nisan.  This Hebrew date fell in the month of March in 5 BCE.

    LUKE 1:57 Now Elizabeth's full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. (NKJV)

It's highly symbolic that John the Baptist was born at the time of Passover.  Even to this very day, there is still an expectation by religious Jews of the coming of Elijah the prophet during the time of Passover (Mal. 4:5-6).  In fact, a cup is set for Elijah at the annual Passover seder, and children symbolically check for him at the door during the service.  As Gabriel prophesied and Jesus confirmed (Matt. 11:14), John the Baptist was the preliminary Elijah to come before the Messiah.

Signs in the heavens over Jerusalem on the 15th of Nisan in the Jewish year 3756 heralded the birth of John the Baptist.  On that night, just after sunset, a spectacular lunar eclipse was visible from Jerusalem.

Since Jesus was conceived during Chanukah, six months after John the Baptist, he would also have been born six months after John:

    LUKE 2:1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.  2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.  4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (NKJV)

Since John was born on Passover, the 15th day of Nisan (the 1st Jewish month), Jesus would have been born six months later on the 15th day of Tishri (the 7th Jewish month).  The 15th day of the 7th month begins the Feast of Tabernacles (Lev. 23:34-35), also known as Sukkot.  Jesus was born on the 1st day of the Feast of Tabernacles!  In the year 5 BCE, this fell in the month of September.

This explains why there was no room at the inn for Joseph and Mary.  A multitude of Jewish pilgrims from all over the Middle East had come to Jerusalem to observe the Feast of Tabernacles, as God required (Deu. 16:16).  Bethlehem, which was only a few miles outside of Jerusalem, was also overflowing with visitors at this time because of the Feast.

Just as it was six months earlier, signs in the heavens over Jerusalem on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles (15 Tishri, 3757) proclaimed the birth of the prophesied Messiah.  Another remarkable lunar eclipse of the full moon was visible in Israel on this night also.

In addition to the hint of Jesus' conception during Chanukah, we also find an allusion to his birth during the Feast of Tabernacles in John's Gospel:

    JOHN 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and did TABERNACLE among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth. (YLT)

The Greek word translated "tabernacle" above is eskenosen.  This word is a form of skenoo (#4637 in Strong's Greek Concordance).  While it is usually translated "dwelt," Strong's says this word literally means: "to fix one's tabernacle, have one's tabernacle, abide (or live) in a tabernacle (or tent), tabernacle . . ."

Eight days after his birth, in accordance with the Law of Moses, Jesus was circumcised on the Eighth Day of Assembly (Shemini Atzeret), another holy day of God (Lev. 23:36):

    LUKE 2:21 And when eight days were completed for the circumcision of the child, his name was called JESUS, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. (NKJV)

So, why do we celebrate Jesus’ birth on December 25th? Over the centuries, as various religious and military leaders of various nations across the world have turned to Christianity, they have usurped the local traditions, and rolled the pagan ideals into their own. The “original” celebrations that took place in December, to name a few, are:

Ancient Babylonians believed the son of the queen of heaven was born around this time of the year.

Ancient Egyptians believed the god-man and savior Osiris died and was entombed around this time of year and that his death gave life to the son of Isis who was born around — you guessed it — December 25 (the feast of the Son of Isis was celebrated on December 25).

Ancient Greece celebrated Lenaea at this time of year (note that Lenaea is "The Festival of Wild Women").

Ancient Rome celebrated a myriad of holidays during this time of year which were eventually consolidated by Emperor Aurelian into the Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, or "Birthday of the Unconquered Son," which was celebrated on — here's a shock! — December 25 (note that this new holiday was a combination of celebrations of various saviors including Appolo, Attis, Baal, Dionysus, Helios, Hercules, Horus, Mithra, Osiris, Perseus, and Theseus).

The winter solstice has been celebrated at this time of year since ancient days (including the Druids of Celtic origin who called it Alban Arthuan). The Druids and other pagans of Northern Europe celebrated Yule at the winter solstice (Yule was symbolic of the pagan Sun God, Mithras, being born).

Buddhists celebrate the Rohatsu (Bodhi Day) at this time of year which has its origins in 596 BCE (BCE means before the common era and is used in place of BC; CE, or common era, is used in place of AD; both are preferable to the AD & BC connotations as those are based solely on Christianity).

The Incans celebrated a festival called Inti Raymi at the time of the winter solstice.

Iranians have celebrated Shab-e Yaldaa since before Islam became the state religion (Zoroastrianism was the state religion before Islam and is the origin of Shab-e Yaldaa).

Judaism celebrates Chanukah at this time of year as a celebration of the Maccabees' retaking of the Temple in Jerusalem three years after it was conquered by Antiochus, the king of Syria.

Islam celebrates Ramadan around this time of year (although Ramadan is not tied to the winter solstice but is instead tied to the first sighting of the crescent moon; because it's lunar-based, Ramadan occurs approximately 11 days earlier each year).

Many Native American tribes celebrated diverse festivals in honor of the winter solstice (e.g., the Pueblo tribe observed both the summer and winter solstices and the Hopi tribe celebrated the Soyal during the winter solstice).

So, if you are up in arms about folks saying "Happy Holidays" or "Merry Christmas", Happy Channuka or Happy Ramadan.. whether it's Merry Kwanza or Blessed Saturnela.. smile, nod, give them a hug, and wish it right back to them. Be happy they took the time to wish you ANYTHING.. and respect their beliefs just as you wish them to respect yours. If you are going to get your nose out of joint because they have the AUDACITY to try to take Jesus out of December, perhaps you should crack open your bible, and do some reading. 

Oh, and hate to mention it.. but that really pretty tree with all the shiny lights and dangly ornaments? MMmmmm yeaaahhhhh.. about that...

Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

In the Northern hemisphere, the shortest day and longest night of the year falls on December 21 or December 22 and is called the winter solstice. Many ancient people believed that the sun was a god and that winter came every year because the sun god had become sick and weak. They celebrated the solstice because it meant that at last the sun god would begin to get well. Evergreen boughs reminded them of all the green plants that would grow again when the sun god was strong and summer would return.

The ancient Egyptians worshiped a god called Ra, who had the head of a hawk and wore the sun as a blazing disk in his crown. At the solstice, when Ra began to recover from the illness, the Egyptians filled their homes with green palm rushes which symbolized for them the triumph of life over death.

Early Romans marked the solstice with a feast called the Saturnalia in honor of Saturn, the god of agriculture. The Romans knew that the solstice meant that soon farms and orchards would be green and fruitful. To mark the occasion, they decorated their homes and temples with evergreen boughs. In Northern Europe the mysterious Druids, the priests of the ancient Celts, also decorated their temples with evergreen boughs as a symbol of everlasting life. The fierce Vikings in Scandinavia thought that evergreens were the special plant of the sun god, Balder.

So yeah.. sorry bout that.. might want to put that giant Pagan symbol out next to the curb for the garbage man too, if ya want to be technical..
-steps off his soap-box, and sticks it back under the stairs where it belongs-