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Other Religions
The History of Christmas


Among all peoples of the world, the most common times for celebration are the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. Considering that the austerity and bleakness of Winter (in contrast to the relative abundance and warmth of Summer) would be so impactful upon the lives of primitive peoples living in temperate climates these festival times -- and even Sun-worship -- should come as no surprise. Stonehenge and hundreds of other megalithic structures throughout the world were constructed to receive a shaft of sunlight in their central chamber at solstice dawn.

December feasts were common in Europe because it was necessary to slaughter cattle that could not be fed during the winter and because the meat could be preserved by the cold weather. The word Yule may come from the Anglo-Saxon word geol (feast), applied to December (geola, feast month). Or it may come from a Norse-Saxon word meaning wheel, referring to the seasonal cycles of the sun. Or it could have come from the Scandinavian Jule (Jul), who was the god of sex and fertility. ("Tide" as in "yuletide" may have come from an Old English word meaning time, occasion or season.)

Midwinter sun festivals were celebrated in ancient Britain & Scandinavia. In Germanic & Scandinavian countries a huge log was carried into the house to serve as the foundation for holiday fires. The Yule log at Jultid (Yuletide) would burn for twelve days, and a different sacrifice would be made on each of the twelve days. Lighted candles and winter fires were used by sun-worshippers to encourage the rebirth of the Sun. Similarly tying fruit to the branches of trees was intended to encourage the coming of Spring.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter Solstice occurs around December 21st, when the Sun is at its greatest distance below the celestial equator. The Vernal Equinox occurs around March 21st when the sun crosses the celestial equator and days have the same duration as nights ("equinox" comes from a Latin word meaning "time of equal days and nights"). The Vernal Equinox marks the beginning of Spring. The constellation (Zodiac sign) visible at dawn on the day of the Vernal Equinox has been regarded as of special significance (currently changing from Pisces to Aquarius due to the 26,000 year precession of the Earth -- the advent of "the Age of Aquarius").

The chief holiday for the ancient Hebrews was celebrated at the first full moon after the Vernal Equinox. Although this holiday was originally a celebration of Spring, it was later celebrated in remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt and was called Passover. The holiday entered Christian celebration by the fact that Christ was reputedly arrested and crucified at Passover. Because Christians insisted that Easter should be celebrated on a Sunday, the Council of Nicea decreed that Easter be the first Sunday after the fourteenth day of the moon (which is approximately the full moon) following the date of the Vernal Equinox (which is assumed to be March 21st). In the first centuries of Christianity Easter was by far the most significant Christian holiday (holy day) and Christmas was not a holiday at all.

The word for "Easter" in most of the Romance Languages is a variant of the Hebrew "Passover", but the English word is unrelated to these forms. Possibly, the English word "Easter" is derived from the name of an Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, "Eostre". Or it may have come from "Ishtar/Astarte" the Babylonian/Chaldean Venus who was the consort of the sun-god. Or it may have come from the same root as "east", associating the source of the rising sun with the resurrection ("rising") of Christ. Sunrise service, painted eggs and rabbits have all symbolized rebirth and fertility in Spring celebrations from ancient times. Celebration of motherhood (mother's day) is also most often in the Spring, another possible association with fertility.

Claims of divinity were commonly associated with virgin birth in the ancient world. The Hindu god Krishna, Gautama Buddha and Zoroaster were reputedly the product of virgin births. Alexander the Great, Constantine and Nero claimed to have virgin births. Admirers of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and Pythagoras claimed virgin births for these sages. In the ancient world virgin birth was a sign of distinction.

In ancient Egypt, Osiris and his wife Isis were reputed to have been divine secular rulers of Egypt until Osiris was murdered by his jealous brother Seth. Seth cut the body of Osiris into 14 pieces and strew them about the land. Isis gathered up the pieces -- with the exception of the genitals, which had been eaten by a fish -- and restored Osiris to life. Osiris then dwelled in the underworld as the king & judge of the dead. Isis nonetheless gave birth to the divine child "Horus the younger" (presumably a virgin birth). In fourth-century Alexandria, "Madonna" could have been a reference to the mother goddess Isis or Saint Mary. The last Egyptian Temple of Isis was converted to a Christian Church in the sixth century AD.

Some claim that the Old Testament prophesy in Isaiah 7:14 that "the Lord himself shall give you a sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son" is a Greek mistranslation -- that the original Hebrew reads "young woman"(alma), not "virgin"(bethulah). If so, the same mistake would have had to have been made in Matthew 1:23 and Luke 1:27. Isaiah 7:14 prophecizes that the savior shall be called "Emmanuel", but this name does not appear in the New Testament. Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 refer to the brothers & sisters of Jesus, which some find difficult to reconcile with the idea that Mary remained a virgin. Either they were not the literal siblings of Christ or the commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" implies that procreation is not sinful.

In the first chapter of Matthew and in the third chapter of Luke there are lengthy geneologies of Christ, possibly to show that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of being descended from David. The geneologies differ, even concerning the ancestors of David. Luke calls Jesus the son of Joseph. According to Matthew, Joseph is the husband of Mary, rather than the father of Jesus.

Mary is described in the Gospels in connection with the Nativity or as the mother of Christ, and is mentioned only in passing in the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the gospels. The rise of the prominence of Mary after the first centuries of Christianity may have contributed to the acceptance of the observance of Christ's birthday. The mother of Constantine, who searched for religious relics in the Holy Land, promoted the importance of Mary and the Nativity. The Council of Ephesus was called in 431 A.D. to resolve the dissention caused by the Patriarch Nestorius, who said that Mary had given birth to the human part of Jesus rather than the divine part. Nestorius called Mary the "Mother of Christ". The Council declared Mary to be "Mother of God" and Nestorius was exiled. Notably, Ephesus was the location of one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World: the Temple of Artemis -- the site of the cult of goddess-worship honoring the Greek virgin goddess Artemis (Diana to the Romans) who was the protector of both chastity and childbirth. Sainthood originally was only conferred upon martyrs who had died for Christ, but early in the second millennium the Blessed Virgin Mary became the chief saint of the Roman Catholic Church. (Canonization was not formalized in the Catholic Church until the end of the first millennium.)

The Immaculate Conception does not refer to the virgin birth of Christ, but is a Catholic doctrine published in 1854 by Pope Pius IX that the Virgin Mary was born immune from original sin and remained free from sin her entire life. The Immaculate Conception, December 8th, is a Holy Day of Obligation in which Roman Catholics are required to attend mass.

The birth of Christ is described in only two of the four gospels: Matthew and Luke. The only common features of the two accounts are the location of Bethlehem and the virgin birth. Only Matthew mentions wise men and the Star of Bethlehem. In Luke 2:16 shepherds, not wise men, find Jesus in a manger. Matthew 2:11 describes the wise men as entering a house rather than a stable, and finding a child rather than an infant. Matthew does not mention the number of wise men or their means of transport (by camel, by foot, etc.) to Bethlehem. The legend that there were three wise men may have arisen because of the three gifts. Sometimes the men are described as "kings", a further fabrication.

Although the King James Version of the Bible describes wise men, this may have been a mistranslation of Magi. Not only may have there been more or less than three Magi, but some or all of them could have been women.

In the 4th century AD the mother of Constantine brought bones purportedly belonging to the three wise men to Constantinople, and these bones currently reside in a Cathedral in Cologne, Germany. Early in Medieval times apocryphal legends arose of the Three Wise Men in art & literature which described them in detail. Melchior was an elderly man with a long white beard who brought gold. Balthasar was a young Moor (North African from the Algeria/Morocco area) who brought myrrh. Caspar (or Gaspar) was a man from the Far East bringing frankincense.

Magi were a class of Zoroastrian priests in ancient Persia who practiced astrology, medicine and magic -- and were renowned in the ancient world for their wisdom. A legend of wise men honoring the baby Jesus was the equivalent of academic certification, despite the fact that astrology was forbidden among the Jews. The wise men gave to the Christ child gold, frankincense (a tree resin producing fragrant smoke when burned) and myrrh (a tree resin with antibiotic & painkilling properties) -- the first Christmas presents. The revelation of the Divinity of Christ to the Gentiles (the Wise Men) was an Epiphany (a word now associated with a sudden realization of a fundamental truth).

Stars had signalled the birth of Krishna, Lao-Tze, Moses and Abraham. Several attempts have been made to give explanations for the Star of Bethlehem. In the 14th century Albert Magnus (teacher of Thomas Aquinas) noted that the constellation Virgo rose above the horizon at midnight on December 24th at the reputed time of Christ's birth. In 1606 the German astronomer Johann Kepler suggested that the "star" was the conjunction of Jupiter & Saturn on May 27th, October 6th and December 1st, 7 B.C. But Jupiter & Saturn would have been separated by a relative distance greater than two diameters of the moon -- so they could not have appeared as a single star. Jupiter & Venus actually overlapped on June 17th, 2 B.C., but this would have been after the estimated 4 B.C. death of King Herod. A supernova explosion occurred in the constellation Capricorn in 5 B.C. and Halley's comet was visible in 11-12 B.C. Chinese astronomers of the Han Dynasty recorded a comet visible for seventy days in 5 B.C.

Natural explanations cannot account for a star being directly above a 20-meter radius on the surface of the earth such that it could be followed to such a specific location, unless the star was not high above the earth: "... and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was." (Matthew 2:9). A natural explanation for a supernatural event may undermine the claim that there was anything supernatural about the event at all.

Modern scholars now date Christ's birth between 7 BC and 4 BC. If shepherds near Bethlehem were watching their flocks at night during the birth of Jesus, then the birth may not have been in a winter month like December. If John the Baptist (cousin of Jesus) was really born in late March and Christ was six months younger, then Jesus would have been born in September. The census for taxation described in Luke 2:1-5 may be an unreliable guide to the date of Christ's birth. Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar had a census in 28 B.C., 8 B.C. and 14 A.D. -- but these were only for Roman citizens. If the Bible is taken as written by fallible human journalists (who misremember & embellish) rather than the literal Word of God, then such information can only be regarded as possible clues.

Some historians doubt that the story of Christ in the New Testament is really a description of the activities of a single man. There were likely many, perhaps even hundreds, of individuals claiming to be saviors and prophets during that period. Thus, the Gospels could have been a compilation of stories and folklore that arose around the activities of many such persons.

Harvest festivals are typically celebrated later in warmer countries. Thanksgiving is celebrated in October in Canada, in November in the United States and was celebrated in December in ancient Rome. Saturn was the Roman god of agriculture, after whom Saturday is named. Saturnalia was the most popular of Roman holidays, with "Mardi-Gras"-like street celebrations occurring between December 17th (birthday of Saturn) and December 24th -- ending with feasting on December 25th. Halls were decked with evergreens. There was an exchange of gifts, principally wax candles and little clay dolls. Authority figures, however, were given tribute in the form of urns, jewelry, coins or gold. Romans parading in the streets wearing masks during Saturnalia began a tradition which continues today in the form of "mummers".

In 64 AD the Roman emperor Nero is believed to have started a fire in Rome, which conveniently cleared ground for the expansion of his palaces. Nero blamed the Christians for the fire, beginning a Roman policy of persecution that lasted more than two centuries. To avoid persecution the Christians decked their homes with holly and the second bishop of Rome (circa 130 AD) declared that the Nativity of Christ should be celebrated during the Saturnalia period. (It was a "movable feast", a single day was not specified.)

The ancient polytheistic religions of Egypt, Persia, Babylonia and eventually Rome increasingly consolidated their pantheons of deities under a single primary god, usually a Sun-god. The Egyptians believed in a transubstantiation of their Sun-god Ra into a disk-shaped wafer that could be eaten in a sacred ritual. The Persian Mithra (Roman Mithras) held special prominence as god of day (light) and the only son of the God of Heaven. But some time before the 5th century B.C. the Persian prophet Zoroaster taught a dualism based on the conflict between the God of Heaven and the God of Evil. Humans could choose between good (light) or evil (darkness) and on judgement day be sent to Heaven or Hell based on their choices.

Mithras was a divine being borne of a human virgin on December 25th (the Winter Solstice by the Roman Julian calendar). As an adult, Mithras healed the sick, made the lame walk, gave sight to the blind and raised the dead. Before returning to heaven at the Spring Equinox Mithras had a last supper with 12 disciples (representing the 12 signs of the Zodiac). Mithraism included Zoroastrian beliefs in the struggle between good & evil, symbolized as light & darkness. This militaristic black-and-white morality (including a final judgement affecting an afterlife of heaven or hell) probably accounted for the popularity of Mithraism among Roman soldiers. Mithraism was like an ancient fraternity: a mystery cult open only to men which had seven degrees of initiation -- including the ritual of baptism and a sacred meal of bread & wine representing the body & blood of Mithras. Late in the second century AD Commodus became the first Roman emperor to be initiated into Mithraism.

In 270 AD a professional army officer named Aurelian rose to be emperor and was able to reunite the Roman Empire through military might. In 274 AD he attempted to unite the religions of the empire under the state cult of Sol invictus ("unconquerable Sun"). Aurelian's new temple enshrined the Sun gods of Babylonia (Baal, Bel or Marduk). Although Mithras was not formally acknowledged, Natalis solis invicti ("birth of the unconquered sun") was, nonetheless, on December 25th. By the time of the reign of the miliary despot Diocletian (284−305 AD) ten percent of the Roman Empire was Christian. The attempts by Diocletian to impose the state religion on everyone led to the last and most terrible of all persecutions. But many people saw the state as a greater enemy than the Christians, who were respected for their willingness to die for their beliefs. Slaves & upper-class women (who were excluded from other religions) were drawn to a god with a human face who espoused justice & love.

Despite the intense persecutions of Christians in the Roman Empire, Christianity continued to win many converts from paganism. Many of the former pagans were unwilling to relinquish their traditional winter solstice celebrations. When Constantine replaced Diocletian as Emporer of the Western Roman Empire in 305 AD he ended all of the persecutions. Constantine was said to have accepted Christianity in 312 AD on the eve of a battle when he had a vision of a cross of light superimposed upon the sun. Persecution of Christians ended in both the Eastern & Western Empires in 313 AD when Constantine & Licinius issued the Edict of Milan. Constantine sought to unify Sun-worship and Christianity into a single monotheistic state religion. (Although Constantine was baptized on his deathbed, this was not an indication of his insincerity -- it was a common practice of early Christians to delay baptism so as to die without sin.)

Although the Bible sanctifies Saturday as the Sabbath, many Christians regarded Sunday (the day of the resurrection of Christ) as the new holy day -- especially because this distanced Christianity from Judaism. In 321 AD Constantine made Sunday rather than Saturday (Saturn's Day) the weekly holiday of the state religion of Sun-worship. The revolt of the Jews & the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, the rejection of the Hebrew calendar and the increasing pre-eminence of the bishop of Rome were all part of the Romanization of Christianity which accompanied the Christianization of Rome.

Constantine regarded himself to be the supreme spiritual leader of both the Sun-cults and of Christianity. He had moved the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople, he called himself "first of the apostles" and he did not recognize the papacy of the bishop of Rome. In 325 AD Constantine called the first Council of Nicea (Nicaea, effectively the first Council of the Roman Catholic Church) to resolve controversy and establish Christian orthodoxy. The Council established the Unity of the Holy Trinity, the date of Christmas and the date of Easter. Constantine built the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, one of the oldest continually operating churches in the world (currently administered by a coalition of Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox clerics). Also in 325 he declared December 25th to be an Immovable Feast for the whole Roman Empire. The bishop of Rome may have accepted December 25th as the date of birth of Jesus Christ as early as 320 AD, but careful analysis by Catholic scholarship can only establish that it was some time before 354 AD.

In Greece, January 6th was the birthday celebration of the child-god Dionysus, borne of the virgin goddess Kore. Dionysus was also known as Jesus. The Eastern Christian Churches celebrated January 6th as the date of both the Nativity and the Epiphany (Greek for "manifestation") -- the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles (the wise men) as well as Christ's baptism by John the Baptist. In the 4th century, the Eastern Orthodox Churches began to accept December 25th as the date of Christ's birth and the Roman Church began to introduce the January 6th feast of Epiphany. The 567 AD Council of Tours proclaimed the duty of Advent feast and established the period between December 25th and January 6th as a 12-day holy festival -- the Twelve Days of Christmas (if the first day is the day after Christmas, the twelfth day of Christmas is Epiphany).


A wealthy orphan whose parents died in an epidemic, Saint Nicholas became a bishop at age 17. At age 30 he became the bishop of Myra (now the city of Demre on the south coast of Turkey) near the beginning of the fourth century. Soon after his appointment, the government of the Eastern Roman Empire jailed all Christian bishops who did not publicly sacrifice to the gods of Rome. Nicholas remained in prison for nearly ten years until Constantine conquered the East -- ending the persecution of Christians. So many Christians had defected that the sacrament of confession was created, so that the "traitors" could cleanse their souls before re-entering the Christian Church.

Nicholas was a vigorous opponent of Arianism, the belief of the Alexandrian bishop Arius that Christ was created by God and therefore independent of God and inferior to God-- a form of polytheism. Constantine called the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. primarily to resolve the bitter conflict in the Eastern Church over Arianism. Nicholas reputedly not only attended Nicea, but physically accosted Arius there. The Nicene Creed supported the unity of God, Christ and the Holy Ghost as a single Being, thereby affirming the monotheism of Christianity. Constantine exiled Arius and ordered his books to be burned.

Saint Nicholas became the subject of many legends. A sailor who fell overboard was reputedly saved by Nicholas when the saint walked on water, retrieved the sailor and carried him back to the ship. After an innkeeper had robbed & dismembered some students, Nicholas reputedly re-assembled them and restored them to life. Nicholas took pity on a poverty-stricken family with 3 daughters who faced the threat of being forced into prostitution because they had no wedding dowries. For two daughters he crept-up to their house at night and threw bags of gold through a bedroom window. For the last daughter, he threw a bag of gold down the chimney -- which landed in a stocking she had set by the fireplace for drying. The traditional association of chimneys & stockings with Santa Claus comes from this story. Nicholas was also noted for his generosity with children -- he would reward them with treats if they had studied their catechism & behaved well. Nicholas was therefore patron saint of schoolchildren & sailors.

The bones of Saint Nicholas lay in his tomb in Myra until 1087. Because the Turks had taken Antioch in 1084, and Myra was no longer Christian, three ships of sailors & merchants raided the tomb, confiscated the bones and took them to the Italian seaport of Bari. In 1089 Pope Urban II consecrated a shrine for the relics of Saint Nicholas in a newly constructed crypt. The Basilica di San Nicola was completed in the middle of the 12th century where the crypt was located.

The legend of Nicholas made him so popular that more European churches bore his name than that of any of the apostles. He was made patron saint of Greece and Russia. He was also made patron saint of banking & pawnbroking at a time when the two trades were closely related. The 3-ball symbol of pawnshops represents the three bags of gold he threw as dowries. On February 14, 1969 the Pope removed Nicholas from the calendar of saints -- there are no records of Nicholas ever having been canonized. The Eastern Orthodox Church continues to recognize the sainthood of Nicholas.

The date of Nicholas's death -- reputedly on December 6th, 326 AD -- was widely celebrated as the feast of Saint Nicholas, but was abolished in many European countries as part of Martin Luther's effort to stop the veneration of saints. German Protestants had the Christ child (Christkindl) distributing presents on December 25th. In English-speaking countries He became Kris Kringle. But in the Netherlands celebration of Saint Nicholas Day (December 6th) continued, despite the rise of Protestantism. Saint Nicholas -- with his long white beard and wearing his red & white bishop's robes -- would ride down streets on his white horse distributing gifts to children. Even today, December 6th is the day children in Holland receive their gifts -- although Saint Nicholas travels from Spain rather than the North Pole and may be accompanied by one or more assistants ("black Peters", who are either Moors or people who were blackened by climbing up and down chimneys).

The transformation of Saint Nicholas to Santa Claus happened largely in America -- with inspiration from the Dutch. In the early days of Dutch New York, "Sinterklass" became known among the English-speaking as "Santa Claus" (or "Saint Nick"). In 1809 Washington Irving, a member of the New York Historical Society (which promoted a Dutch Saint Nicholas as its patron saint), created a tale of a chubby, pipe-smoking little Saint Nicholas who road a magic horse through the air visiting all houses in New York. The elfish figure was small enough to climb down chimneys with gifts for the good children and switches for the bad ones.

The 1823 poem The Night Before Christmas (A Visit from Saint Nicholas, reputedly by Clement Moore, but now believed to have been written by Major Henry Livingston, Jr.) replaced the horse with a sleigh drawn by eight flying reindeer. (Livingston may have been inspired by the Finnish legend of Old Man Winter, who drove reindeer down from the mountain, bringing the snow.) Thomas Nast -- head cartoonist for Harper's Weekly magazine (the man who invented both the Democratic donkey and the Republican elephant) -- depicted Santa Claus from 1863 to 1886 as an unaging, jolly, bearded fat man who lived at the North Pole and wore a furry suit & elfish sleeping cap. By 1881 Nast had drawn Santa as a large man with a white beard in a red suit trimmed with white fur. Although other artists continued to use more elfish depictions, red-suited Santas continued the long tradition inspired by the red & white bishop's robes of Saint Nicholas.

The standardization of Santa's image was probably due to Coca-Cola artist Haddon Sundblom who depicted Santa as a portly, jolly grandfatherly figure with a ruddy complexion and white-fir-trimmed red coat & cap in 1931 -- replacing the pipe with a bottle of Coke. Thirty-five years of annual advertising by the Coca-Cola company using Sundblom's Santa solidified the contemporary image of Santa Claus (but without the Coke). (It was a fortunate coincidence that the red & white colors matched those used by Coca-Cola.)

In England, as elsewhere, many churches had been dedicated to Saint Nicholas, but with the elimination of Catholicism "Father Christmas" reverted to associations with a Green-clad elfish figure associated with pagan mid-winter festivals. Although "Father Christmas" rather than "Santa Claus" is still the name of choice in the United Kingdom, his appearance has become indistinguishable from his American counterpart. Similarly, France has a "Pere Noel" and Brazil has a "Papai Noel".

Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer was invented in 1939 by a staff copywriter for Montgomery Ward. The story was patterned after The Ugly Duckling, turning a genetically defective glowing nose into a foggy-night navigation asset. Originally distributed to children as an illustrated story, a decade later it became the theme of a song which was sung by Gene Autry, the "Singing Cowboy".

Katherine Lee Bates (who wrote the song "America the Beautiful") is credited with the invention of Mrs. Santa Claus in a poem written in 1899. Since that time Mrs. Claus has often been depicted as a cheerful portly woman who spends her time at the north pole preparing Christmas foods.

In the fall of 1897 an 8-year-old girl named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the New York Sun asking if Santa Claus really exists. Francis Church, one of the Sun's editorial writers wrote a "Yes, Virginia" reply which has become a classic example for adults fostering children's belief in Santa Claus.

According to one study, 85% of 4-year-olds believe in Santa Claus. Belief drops to 65% by age 6 and to 25% by age 8. As children begin to question how Santa can visit every house, how a large man can fit in a chimney, how Santa can be in so many shopping malls at the same time, etc -- many parents resort to increasingly strained explanations to maintain the fiction. The uncritical belief of children can be touchingly cute. The temptation to build a poetic fantasy-world in formative minds -- removed from the harsh realities of life -- can be great. Potential damage can result from erosion of trust when parents seriously try to convince their children that Santa Claus is a fact rather than a fairy tale. But if a parent can experience sentimental enchantment and love attached to the "game" of Santa Claus it would be hard to find much intention to deceive when no effort is made to mislead a child who begins to question.

Some Christians can become uncomfortable with the God-like qualities of Santa Claus. He is all-knowing, has magical powers and distributes reward or punishment (but nearly always reward, irrespective of how good or bad the child has been). For parents to lie to children to encourage them to believe in a false god in a red suit is viewed as a blasphemous substitute for recognition of the true God.

Men interested in playing Santa Claus at Christmas-time are coming under increasing scrutiny. Some municipalities & organizations (such as the Rotary Clubs) have issued regulations or guidelines concerning Santa hygiene and behavior. In some cases Santa is prohibited from being in the company of a child without a third adult (apart from the parent) being present. Santa must not make promises to a child. Santa must keep both hands in plain view at all times. And Santa must not straddle a child on the knee -- or perhaps not touch a child at all. Background checks and sensitivity training for aspiring Santas are increasing. Schools been instituted to train those who wish to be professional Santas.


Celebration of birthdays -- even including that of Christ -- was rejected as a pagan tradition by most Christians during the first three hundred years of Christianity, but the matter became increasingly controversial. The third century Christian writer Tertullian supported observance of Christ's birthday, but condemned the inclusion of Saturnalia customs such as exchanging of gifts and decorating homes with evergreens. Chapter 10 of the Book of Jeremiah begins by condemning the heathen practice of cutting a tree from the forest to "deck it with silver and gold".

The Protestant Reformation in 16th century Europe was associated with a profound rejection of the Roman Church and a return to scripture as the ultimate source of spiritual authority. There was no scriptural support to be found for celebration of Christmas, no commandment that Christ's birthday be observed. Martin Luther called Rome a modern "Babylon" -- parallels could be drawn with the mother-goddess worship of the ancient Babylon. The birthday of Mithras and the festivals of Saturnalia for the celebration of Christ would be symptoms of the paganism upon which the Romans had built the Catholic Church.

English Puritanism was probably the most extreme manifestation of the Protestant reaction against the Roman Church. Exodus 20:4 could be taken to indicate that God does not want to be worshiped the way pagans worship their gods -- with idolatry such as Christmas trees and Nativity Scenes (much less revelry, drinking and gluttony). Oliver Cromwell campaigned against the heathen practices of feasting, decorating and singing, which he felt desecrated the spirit of Christ. Christmas was called such names as "the Papist's Massing Day" and "Old Heathen Feasting Day". The very word Christmas was viewed as taking the Lord's name in vain. Cromwell's government abolished English Christmas celebration by an act of Parliament in 1647, and the ban was not lifted until Cromwell lost power in 1660. But the tradition of carolling at Christmastime did not resume again in England until the 1800s.

Massachusetts Pilgrams passed a similar law forbidding Christmas celebration in New England in 1659 (repealed in 1681). Thanksgiving was the most important festivity for the Puritans. Wassailing (a door-to-door visiting of neighbors, drinking at each stop) was condemned as a source of public disorder. Wassail is a hot spiced wine punch with tiny roasted apples or clove-studded oranges floating on top. "Wes hal" is Saxon/Old English for "be hale" or "be of good health". The fact that toast sometimes floated in wassail bowls has been given as an explanation for "toasting to health".

Christmas as celebrated by Catholics and early Protestants a few hundred years ago was not the secular holiday we recognize today. It was a "Christes Maesee" (Old English for Christ's Mass) or Nativity service plus a large family dinner.

Although Christmas was not widely celebrated in New England until 1852, it was popular in the American South beginning with the Anglican settlement of Jamestown, Virginia in 1607. The Virginian colonists were the first to establish eggnog as a holiday beverage. ("Nog" comes from the word grog, meaning any drink made with rum.) Dutch influence in the settlement of New York City (New Amsterdam) helped make New York a mostly pro-Christmas state, although there was still an anti-Christmas New England influence. Christmas was not declared an American legal holiday until 1894 (many years after having become a holiday for federal employees).

In 1583 the Presbyterian church suppressed the observation of Christmas in Scotland because there are no biblical references to Christmas celebrations nor any biblical commandments to celebrate the birthday of Christ. The Church of Scotland continued to discourage the celebration of Christmas, which remained a normal working day in Scotland until 1958. Hogmanay (December 31) was main day of Scottish celebration.

Modern Jehovah's Witnesses and other fundamentalists still regard Christmas to be an un-Christian pagan holiday, which they do not celebrate.

Christmas was discouraged in the officially atheist Soviet Union, but a Festival of Winter was celebrated, and "Father Frost" would bring gifts to children at the New Year. (Many Slavic countries have had a long tradition of Grandfather Frost riding a sleigh drawn by three horses to deliver gifts to children.)

Fidel Castro declared Cuba to be atheist in 1962, but did not prohibit the celebration of Christmas until 1969. Castro restored the holiday in 1997 when Pope John Paul II was permitted to visit the country.


The 567 AD Council of Tours proclaimed Advent, a season from November 11 to December 24 characterized by the spirit of anticipating the birth of Christ. ("Adventists" are Christians who prepare for the imminent Second Coming of Christ.) The faithful were forbidden from being absent from regular church attendance during the period and were to fast as strictly as during Lent. Although the Orthodox Church still begins Advent on November 11, near 600 AD Pope Gregory I shortened the season to the four Sundays before Christmas. The Advent wreath is decorated with four candles, one of which is to be lit on each of the four Sundays. Advent is observed festively in Nuremberg, Germany where the season is begun with a gala opening of the Christkindl Markt (Christ child shopping market) on the Friday before the first Sunday of Advent.

Ancient Egyptians used palms in their Winter Solstice festivals -- and the Romans used firs -- in anticipation of the lush greenery of Spring with the return of the Sun. Bringing an evergreen tree into the house during winter solstice festivals was a tradition among the Germans from at least 700 AD. According to legend, Martin Luther added candles to the tree decorations. Like the Christmas tree, the Advent wreath and its candles are of German origin -- although candles were common gifts during Saturnalia and candles have a long tradition in pagan rituals.

Morality plays performed during Medieval times probably also contributed to the use of Christmas trees. One of the most popular of these plays featured Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The only prop would be an evergreen tree (the "Paradise Tree") to which was affixed a red apple. Most commonly the Paradise Play was performed on December 24th, because this was the feast day of Adam and Eve on the old Christian calendar. Because "immoral behavior" sometimes occurred during this play, it was forbidden by the Church in the fifteenth century, but many continued the practice of having a Paradise Tree in their home on December 24th.

Victoria became Queen of England in 1837 at age 18. She proposed to the German Prince Albert and married him in 1840. Albert provided the first Christmas tree, well decorated, to his family at Windsor Castle for the Christmas of 1841. Albert distributed Christmas trees to schools and army barracks to foster his childhood love of the seasonal tree in his adopted country. Newspaper illustrations in 1848 showing the royal family with a Christmas tree decorated with glass-blown ornaments, candles and ribbons in Windsor Castle excited the popular imagination in Britain, a sentiment not shared by Americans.

German immigrants to eastern Pennsylvania ("Pennsylvania Dutch") were decorating Christmas trees in their homes at least as early as the 1820s. In 1851 when some Pennsylvania Germans placed a Christmas tree outside their church, others in the community told the minister to remove the pagan symbol. Christmas trees did not gain popularity in the United States until late in the 19th century. The German song "O Tannenbaum" became translated into the American "O Christmas Tree" (and is the melody for the state songs of Maryland, Iowa, Michigan and New Jersey).

The placing of tinsel on Christmas trees began in Germany -- originally as beaten silver strips. According to legend a poor woman's tree was covered with spiderwebs and this saddened the Christ Child so much that He turned the webs into silver. The Germans also decorated their trees with fruits, pastries, candies, colored paper figures, tin angels and other ornaments. In the United States F.W. Woodworth unexpectedly made a fortune in the 1880s selling German-made Christmas tree ornaments which he had reluctantly stocked in his five-and-dime stores.

In 1882 Edward Johnson, a colleague of Thomas Edison, became the first person to light a Christmas tree with electric light -- using a string of 80 small bulbs. Because they are such a fire hazard, candles were traditionally only placed on a tree on Christmas Eve. With electric lights trees could be illuminated safely for longer periods. And lighting trees outdoors was made practical by electricity. Decorating houses & landscapes with strings of multicolored lights at Christmastime became popular early in the 20th century. Candles had traditionally been placed in windows to help Christmastime travelers to find and identify houses -- and to create holiday cheer.

Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that attaches itself to trees, never touches the ground and can bear fruit in the winter. The Druids regarded mistletoe as sacred. The Scandinavians associated it with the goddess of love. Ancient Babylonian legend regarded mistletoe as a divine branch from heaven which was grafted to earthly trees. Mistletoe was a token of peace & reconciliation -- with a kiss symbolizing pardon. Kissing under mistletoe was a Roman custom. The unholy & pagan associations with mistletoe (and the adulterous temptations) caused the church to ban its use and substitute holly wreaths, which could represent Christ's crown of thorns. (Puritans later condemned holly wreaths as a pagan symbol of sun-worship -- the shape symbolizing the sun.)

From the time of the ancient Egyptians, goose was the main course of Winter Solstice feasts. Henry VIII of England is credited with replacing goose with turkey, which is more meaty & flavorful. Turkeys were first introduced to Europe in 1519 by the Spanish, who learned of turkeys from the Aztecs (who domesticated the birds). Fruit from an exotic American plant -- the cranberry -- was also added to Christmas dinners.

Plum pudding was originally a soup made by boiling beef & mutton with dried plums (prunes), wines and spices. The prunes & meats were later removed, raisins added and the pudding was thickened with eggs & breadcrumbs to be more like a steamed or broiled cake. So "plum pudding" is not a pudding and contains no plums.

Christmas ham may originate from Norse traditions of eating wild boar in midwinter feasts. The ancient Romans ate boar during Saturnalia in honor of the the god Adonis who was slain by a boar and whose birthday was December 25th. The oldest existing printed Christmas carol is "The Boar's Head Carol" (printed 1521), which was sung in England at Christmas dinner while a boar's head was carried on a platter. The custom is still observed every Christmas at Queen's College, Oxford -- a possible relic of the Roman occupation of Britain.

Humble pie was made from the "humbles" of deer (heart, liver, brain and other organs) by the servants of nobility who feasted on the more choice cuts of meat. By the 17th century humble pie had become such a traditional Christmas dish that it was outlawed by the Puritan Cromwell government in England.

Candy canes are edible ornaments which originated in Germany in the late 1600s. Originally made as straight white sticks, a German choirmaster bent the sticks so as to represent a shepherd's staff -- and distributed them to children during Nativity services (at least partly to keep them quiet by giving them something to suck on). Not until the year 1900 did candy canes become striped with the red-and-white Christmas colors or become flavored with peppermint or wintergreen. Some people have the idea that the J-shape is a reference to J-esus and that the red & white symbolize the blood & purity of Christ.

With its large red & white leaves (the colored upper leaves are often mistaken for flowers), the poinsettia has become the Christmas "flower". Eighty-five percent of potted plants sold at Christmastime are poinsettias. The flowers were brought to the United States by physician, statesman and botanist Joel Roberts Poinsett upon his return as American Ambassador to Mexico in 1828. Poinsett cultivated the Aztec plants in his South Carolina greenhouse. In Mexico the poinsettia is called "flower of the Holy Night".

Mumming arose from a pagan tradition where men & women swapped clothes, wore masks and visited neighbors for merry-making (a tradition still observed in Newfoundland) -- although the mummers also trace their origins to the Roman Saturnalia festivals where masks were worn. Plays were sometimes performed with masked, costumed mimes (who were "mum"). Henry VIII outlawed the practice of wearing masks because some people were exploiting the opportunity to beg or commit crimes. The revelry of a New Year's Mummers' Parade in Philadelphia continues a tradition that began at least as early as the American Revolution.

Nutcracker Ballet is a traditional Christmas performance written by the Russian composer Tchaikovsky. It represents the Christmas Eve dreams of a girl. Her nutcracker doll leads a squadron of toy soldiers against an army of mice around a Christmas tree. She also dreams of snowflakes and the Kingdom of Sweets.

Christmas Cards were introduced in 1843 (the same year A CHRISTMAS CAROL was first published) by Sir Henry Cole, an English businessman and patron of art. He printed a thousand cards and sold them as a means to simplify the sending of Christmas greetings. Postage for the cards was one penny in the 1840s. Within a few years after the introduction of the halfpenny rate for mailing cards in the 1870s, the British Post Office was flooded with annual card mailings.

The "Twelve Days of Christmas" is a fanciful English folk song without hidden symbolic meanings. It was probably used to teach children how to count. A legend holds that the song was symbolic for English Catholics when their religion was forbidden in England (prior to the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829).

The word carol derives from the Middle English carole (ring) -- a ringdance with a song. Originally carols were primarily folk songs for celebrations. Christmas became the holiday of carols in the 16th century, but condemnation of carolling by the Puritans ended the tradition in England for over 160 years. Carols can include both religious songs, such as "Silent Night" & "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" as well as the nonreligious "Jingle Bells" & "White Christmas", although some distinguish between carols and popular songs.

"Silent Night" (the most popular of all Christmas carols) was first written as a poem in Germany in 1816 by a young priest named Joseph Mohr who was assigned to an Austrian pilgrimage church. Two years later he and his friend Franz Gruber composed guitar music for the piece and sang it for Midnight Mass. "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem" was written as a poem by Phillip Brooks, a Philadelphia pastor who ministered to Union soldiers during the Civil War. The poem was set to music three years later in 1868 and was sung by a children's choir in Brooks's church, but was unknown outside his parish for a decade.

The song "Jingle Bells" was composed in 1857 by James Pierpoint, who became a Confederate soldier in the Civil War. Although Pierpoint never rose out of poverty, his nephew James Pierpoint Morgan (J.P.Morgan) became one of the wealthiest businessmen in America. The song "White Christmas" was composed by Irving Berlin, a Jew, early in World War II. Bing Crosby sang the song to troops who were moved by memories of what their homeland was before the war -- and would be after the war. Sentimental association of snow with Christmas has long been a tradition of the season.

Boxing Day (December 26th) is of British origin and is a recognized holiday not only in Britain, but in Australia, Canada and New Zealand. In British tradition, Christmas was a day of exchanging gifts whereas the day following Christmas was a day in which people of less fortunate station (servants, tradespeople and the poor) received gifts from the more fortunate -- often in boxes -- without the expectation of being anything being given in return.

The time between the holy season of Christmas and the holy season of Lent (the 46 days before Easter Sunday, in remembrance of Christ's 40 days in the wilderness) is sometimes called carnival (Latin for "farewell to meat", in reference to the fasting of Lent). Starting on the day after Epiphany, the peak day of partying with abandonment is the day before Ash Wednesday (the first day of Lent), namely Mardi Gras (French for "Fat Tuesday") -- although the days of celebration can include the entire carnival period.

The World War Once Christmas Truce of 1914 has often been romanticized as an example of how Christmas love can triumph over the savagry & killing of war. But it is no exaggeration to say that the occasion of Christmas evoked shared sentiments, empathy and goodwill among the British & German troops who enjoyed the relief of fraternizing from the stress of shooting & dodging shells.

El Niño (Spanish for "the small boy", ie, the Christ child) was originally a term used by peoples of the west coast of South America to describe the warming ocean countercurrent which occurs annually during the Christmas season. But every 3 to 7 years the effect is abnormally strong and is associated with dramatic climactic effects all over the world, including drought in some areas, flooding in other areas and unusually warm or cold winter temperatures. The most severe El Niño on record was in 1982-1983, but the phenomenon has not been studied by scientists for much longer than fifty years.

St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals and founder of the Franciscan Order, is said to have been the first to depict a Nativity Scene in Creccio, Italy, around 1223 AD -- using lifesize wooden figures of Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the shephards.

The Greek word for Christ is Xristos (Xhrstos -- the second letter "eta" resembling the Roman "H" -- "Jesus H. Christ"). The shortening of Christmas to Xmas by educated persons who knew Greek has been common since the sixteenth century, with the "X" often symbolizing a cross. "Xmas" was an ecclesiastical abbreviation used by churchmen in tables & charts. More recently the use of "X" has been associated with irreverent commercialism, leading to the saying "Put the 'Christ' back into Xmas."


Children all over the world can send letters for Santa to: Santa Claus; North Pole H0H 0H0; Canada. The boundaries of Canada extend to the Geographic North Pole, but there is no land at that location -- only sea ice. The letters are delivered to Montreal where they are answered in over 20 languages with replies printed in "Santa's handwriting" on "Santa's personal stationary".

Letters for Santa are also sent to Finland: Santa Claus Park; Arctic Circle; 999 Finland; Europe. Children in Finland believe that Father Christmas lives in Lapland, part of Finland north of the Arctic Circle. There is a theme park called "Santa Claus Village" in Korvatunturi, Lapland which tourist agencies promote as being Santa's home. Young children in Finland receive their gifts on Christmas Eve -- often from a family member dressed as Father Christmas.

Christmas is called Noel in France, which is why "Joyeux Noel" is the season's greeting in French. The word "noel" may come from "les bonnes nouvelles", meaning "the good news" or gospel. (The "First Noel" was the proclamation of the news of Christ's birth.) In France children put their shoes in front of the fireplace so Pere Noel (Father Christmas) can fill them with gifts. Adults exchange gifts on New Year's Day.

In Spain Navidad (Christmas) is a season that lasts nearly a month, beginning December 8th with the feast of the Immaculate Conception (the Virgin Mary is the patron saint of Spain) and ending January 6 with Epiphany. The season emphasizes religous rather than the secular traditions celebrated so much elsewhere. Much time is spent in church. Most homes have mangers. Festive aspects include special dances, bonfires and a Christmas dinner (featuring seafood). On Epiphany Eve children fill their shoes with grass, straw or grain for the camels of the Wise Men and place them on the doorstep. On the morning of Epiphany (Three Kings Day) the children find the gifts left by the Wise Men. The Wise Men play a role similar to Santa Claus -- they visit hospitals, appear in parades and children write them letters requesting special gifts.

Italy also emphasizes Nativity scenes and religious aspects of the season in its Christmas observances. People fast and pray prior to Christmas dinner. Epiphany is similarly the day for gifts, but the gifts are left by an elderly woman (La Befana) who had intended to help the wise men find the young Jesus -- but had been busy cleaning. Dressed in black she flies on the broom she had been using for sweeping and slides down the chimney to fill the good children's stockings with gifts and to leave a lump of coal in the stockings of bad children. A large Christmas tree is ceremoniously presented at the Vatican by the Pope, much the way the National Christmas tree presented by the American President.

In Russia Babouschka is the name of the elderly woman who failed to provide food & shelter to the Wise Men. She wanders searching for the Christ child, leaving gifts for children. Christmas dinner is a meatless meal eaten on January 6th (Christmas by the Julian calendar) following a period of fasting. In Ukraine the meatless Christmas dinner is served in twelve courses to honor the 12 apostles.

In Latin America Nativity scenes rather than Christmas trees are the decorative centerpiece of Navidad -- often containing elaborate ornaments, figurines and electric lights (although Christmas trees are popular in Argentina). In Chile Old Man Christmas climbs through open summer windows with his bag of toys. In Brazil Papa Noel arrives in a helicopter at a large soccer stadium in Rio wearing a silk shirt rather than a fir coat. In Mexico children break cardboard or paper mache pinatas hung by rope to be rained-upon with candies & small toys.

Christmas in Australia & New Zealand is celebrated with beach parties & outdoor barbecues -- along with caroling and other religious observances. Christmas marks the beginning of summer holidays at the end of the school year, so students have an additional reason to celebrate. The Christmas tree in New Zealand is the Pohutukawa, which has brilliant red flowers prior to Christmas.

Christmas is a national secular holiday in India, where the Hindus & Muslims celebrate in the secular traditions. Poinsettias & tropical plants are used for decoration and mango & banana trees receive Christmas ornaments. Tribal Christians in the Northeast & West go to church & sing carols. In the South clay oil lamps are lit on roofs and the tops of walls in the evening.

In most Middle Eastern countries signs of fellow Muslims celebrating Christmas are viewed with scorn, so forms of Christmas celebration are rarely found among the non-Christians. Christians from all over the world come to Israel & Palestine to visit the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem and other sacred sites of historical significance to Christians. The St. Nicholas festival is celebrated in Myra, Turkey.

In Zimbabwe Kisimusi (Christmas) church services feature feasts & the singing of gospel songs. Fathers give gifts to wives & children, usually clothes & candy. Wearing new clothes to church on Christmas day is a common tradition among African Christians.

About one-tenth of the population of Vietnam is Roman Catholic. Catholic children enact Nativity scenes at Christmastime.

Christmas is increasingly celebrated in China, where coastal factories are the largest suppliers of Christmas paraphernalia to the American market. In China, the Communist Party does not regard Christmas as a religious threat because it is celebrated entirely as a fun occasion for exchanging gifts and for partying with family & friends -- against a backdrop of Christmas trees, greetings, and melodies. China is adopting Christmas in much the way it has adopted Western music, clothing and videos.

The Japanese traditionally celebrated oseibo, a gift-giving season in December, but the main holiday season is around the New Year. Although gifts were given to friends, coworkers and relatives, expensive gifts were given to bosses, seemingly as tribute. Less than 1% of Japanese are Christian, but many of the secular aspects of Christmas celebration have become increasingly popular, especially in cities. Images of Santa Claus & decorated Christmas trees have become very common, along with Western Christmas holiday music. Christmas gift-giving is less family-oriented and more romantic, like Valentine's Day (possibly related to the fact that younger people are quicker to adapt foreign customs as a fad).

Conveniently, December 25th was the date of the signing of the Constitution of the Republic of China in 1947, so December 25th is an official holiday in Taiwan -- which is celebrated like Christmas.

Hanukkah (Chanukah, the Festival of Lights) is not a major Jewish holiday like Passover (celebrating the Exodus) or Yom Kipper (celebrating God's forgiveness in the second Tablet of Commandments). Honoring a 165 BC battle for religious freedom against a Syrian tyrant, Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days conveniently close to the Christmas season -- involving exchanging of gifts, house decorations and family feasting. The exact dates are determined by the Hebrew calendar, so they vary from year-to-year on the Gregorian calendar. The most distinctive ceremony is the lighting of an additional candle on the menorah (candelabra) each evening of the holiday. Increasing numbers of municipal court cases have been fought over the right of Jewish organizations to place a menorah in public places alongside Christmas trees and other holiday displays.

Eid (Eid Ul Fitr) is a time of feasting, celebration and gift-giving (to children or the needy) that is sometimes taken as an Islamic equivalent of Christmas. The date of the holiday, however, is not constant on the Gregorian calendar because it is celebrated on the first three days following the ninth Islamic month (ie, following Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk to honor the month in which the Koran was revealed). The Islamic calendar year consists of 12 lunar months and is therefore about 11 days shorter than the Gregorian calendar year. The holiday only begins when the crescent of the new moon of the tenth month is sighted -- and this can be a matter of regional difference or controversy among Muslims. (The crescent only became became a symbol of Islam with the founding of the Ottoman Empire and the conquest of Constantinople by the Turks in 1453. The crescent had appeared on the city's flag from before the time of Christ, but the symbol was adopted by the Ottoman's and subsequently by all Muslims.)

In the 1960s an activist California professor of Black Studies created the holiday of Kwanzaa in reaction against Christmas as an institution of commercialism & exploitation not relevant to African-Americans. The word "Kwanzaa" comes from a phrase meaning "first fruits" in Swahili, the most widely spoken African language. In the seven days from December 26th to January 1st the seven communitarian African values are strengthened & celebrated: Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity and Faith.

Some non-religious people have attempted to combine conformity and rebellion by celebrating Isaac Newton's birthday -- "Newtonmas" (emphasizing apple decorations, particularly for people who have outdoor apple trees). Newton was born on December 25, 1642 according to the old Julian calendar, but by the Gregorian calendar (the one in current use) his birthday was January 4, 1643. Both calendar systems were in use during Newton's lifetime. As a birthday gift, Newton was made Master of the British Mint on December 25, 1699/January 4, 1700. (According to one legend Isaac's Anglican parents listed December 25th on the birth certificates of all their children as a protest against the anti-Christmas Cromwell government.)

Other non-Christians who celebrate the Winter Solstice are Pagans -- including Wiccans (witches), Druids and followers of Norse traditions -- honor Solstice celebrations. (But the most important Pagan ceremony is the new year at Hallowe'en.)


In 18th century England & America non-puritans who celebrated Christmas did so by churchgoing, holly in windows, caroling, some dancing, adult visiting and dinner parties featuring mince pie, fruitcake & other seasonal foods. Children and exchanging of gifts were not featured in Christmas celebration. Charles Dickens and the transformation of the Dutch Saint Nicholas into Santa Claus changed the spirit of Christmas.

Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843. This popular book had an extremely powerful influence on undermining opposition to Christmas, especially among those influenced by Puritans in England and New England. Dickens used Scrooge to symbolize the idea that those who don't celebrate Christmas are uncharitable, twisted, mean-spirited and socially isolated. Dickens depicted Christmas as a one-day family event held in the home rather than a 12-day public holiday -- thus contributing to changing the way Christmas was celebrated. Central to the Dickens Christmas celebration was a lavish family dinner.

In 1957 Dr.Seuss reinforced the negative image of those who don't want to celebrate Christmas with his picture-book How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch -- a nasty mountain hermit -- steals Christmas paraphernalia and plans to destroy it. But his heart is touched by the sound of Christmas carols, and he becomes transformed (as happened to Scrooge).

The modern celebration of Christmas tends to emphasize commercial and other non-religious aspects of the holiday. The time to Christmas is measured by "shopping days" rather than "prayer days". For retailers, it is "the season to be jolly" (except when their expectations are too high). An estimated one-sixth of retail sales in the United States are Christmas purchases.

Gallop polls have shown that over 90% of Americans regard Christmas to be their favorite holiday. Many love the fun of giving and receiving presents. Christmas has become, above all, a celebration of family. For most, the feelings of sharing, togetherness and love experienced at Christmas-time is a special joy. But the expectations some family members project upon other members often have the character of "familial moral duty". The season thus frequently occasions reopening old hurts and conflicts. This forces many people to re-examine their lives, especially because Christmas is a period which interrupts routing daily living. Resolutions for the New Year are often the result.

Perhaps no modern institution apart from Christmas elicits such ritualistic behavior from so many people. And the pressures to conform to these rituals can be very great. When others are celebrating with friends & family, those without friends & family (especially due to death of a loved-one) can feel their loss intensified. But Christmas can also be a time of great social support. Popular magazines frequently report high suicide rates at Christmas, but scientific studies have consistently shown that suicide as a cause of death declines immediately prior-to and on Christmas day -- only becoming higher than normal on the days after Christmas [ARCHIVES OF GENERAL PSYCHIATRY 38(12):1377-1381 (1981) and AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PSYCHIATRY 142(6):782 (1985)].

Many Christmas parties are held in the weeks of early December. Hard liquor sales are 30% greater in December than in September. Although toasting with alcoholic beverages is part of the holiday tradition, a large number of consecutive non-working days appeals to some people as a drinking opportunity. (America may owe its independ
here's the dope about jihad.



AFGHANISTAN: The war in Afghanistan is ongoing. Since Soviet troops withdrew, various Afghan groups have tried to eliminate their rivals. Although the Taliban strengthened their position in 1998 they have not achieved their final objective. Afghanistan harbours Osama bin Ladin, a wealthy Saudi Arabia dissident responsible for terrorist acts around the world. On 11 September 2001 members from bin Ladin's el Qaeda group highjacked 4 passenger jets in the USA, crashing one into the Pentagon and 2 into the World Trade Center, killing more than 2,000 citizens. The USA and its allies declared war on terrorism and counter-attacked, removing the Taliban from power. The war on terrorism and the el Qaeda continues.

ALGERIA: Armed Islamic groups formed and since 1992 have carried out attacks on key economic points, security forces, officials and foreigners. In 1995 Algeria's first multiparty presidential elections were held and the incumbent president Liamine Zeroual won 60% of the votes in a poll with a 75% turnout. The first multiparty legislative elections were held in June 1997 which were won by the National Democratic Rally, which holds the majority of seats along with the FLN. Although the armed wing of the FIS declared a ceasefire in October 1997, an extremist splinter group, the Islamic Armed Group (GIA), continued attacks. There is also evidence that many attacks are carried out by militias backed by the Algerian security forces. After years of civil strife, Amnesty International estimates that around 80,000 people have died
The Caucasus and Russia: The Central Asian republics have a long history of conflicts. Fighting breaks out regularly between warlords and religious groups calling for the establishment of Islamic states outside the Russian Federation. Russia is trying to hold on to the federation because the Caucasus is a vital supply route for the oil riches of the Caspian and Black Sea. With the break-up of the Soviet Union various groups fought for control in the republics. Conflicts from one republic spills over to the other and they continually blame each other for attacks. Chechnya, still part of Russia, was flung in an almost full-scale war in 1994-96 and, after a disastrous campaign, Russia was forced to re-evaluate its involvement in the area. In August 1999 Russia stepped up security in the Caucasus region as rebels from within Dagestan - a small republic where more than 100 languages are spoken - went on the attack in support of Chechnyan Muslim groups who claim independence from Russia. In September 1999 Russia launched a ground invasion into the area to cut rebels off from Central Asian supply routes. By January 2000 Russia was once again involved in a full scale conflict in Chechnya. The Caucasus issue is complicated by the more than 50 different ethnic groups each insisting to proclaim their religious convictions on the area. The situation holds serious danger for neighbouring countries, Kazakhstan, Georgia and Russia itself.

EYGPT: Fundamentalist Muslim rebels seek to topple the secular Egyptian government. At least 1,200 people have perished since the beginning of the rebellion. The conflict was primarily waged as an urban guerrilla/terrorist war. The opposition Muslim Brotherhood took part in elections in 2000, indicating that they felt armed force would not work.

INDONESIA: The struggle on the Indonesia islands is complicated by leaders of pro- and anti-independence movements, and by religious conflicts. More than 500 churches have been burned down or damaged by Muslims over the past six years. Both the Christians and Muslims blame each other for the violence and attempts at reconciliation made little progress. After a bloody struggle East Timor gained independence in 1999. The hostilities on other islands continue to claim dozens of lives, to such an extent that the break-up of Indonesia seem imminent.

INDIA/PAKISTAN: Muslim separatists in the Indian section declared a holy war against the mostly-Hindu India and started attacks in 1989, mainly from Pakistan-occupied section of Kashmir, and from Pakistan and Afghanistan. The conflict continues, with Pakistan also crushing rebellions with brute force in their section.

IRAQ: Supports Islamic terrorist acts around the world. Differing culture and religious groups within Iraq continues to clash with Shiite Muslims.

ISRAEL: Within its own borders, Israel continues to battle various Muslim organizations that seek independence for a Palestine state, areas made up of the Gaza strip, West.Bank, and part of Jerusalem. There is heavy international pressure on Israel to recognise a Palestinian state. The area of what today is Palestine was settled by Semitic tribes at a very early date. It was then called Canaan, and controlled by Canaanite tribes for more than 1,000 years. In about 1500 BC Hebrew, or Jewish, tribes began to enter the area. They later came into conflict with a people of Greek origin known as the Philistines. It is from them that the term Palestine is derived.

IRAN: After the Iranian Revolution in 1979 toppled the government of the Shah, the Mujahadeen Khalq soon began a bloody guerrilla war against the new Islamic government. The Mujahadeen are currently based in Iraq and conduct cross-border raids into Iran, as well as conducting urban guerrilla operations in the cities and conducting political assassinations. Iran occasionally launches raids against Khalq bases in Iraq.

KOSOVO: The ethnic Albanian KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army) in this Serbian province fought a guerilla war against Serbia to claim the region. Beginning in February 1999, Albanians were forced out of the province, prompting NATO to attack Serbia. By July 1999 Serb troops were forced out of Kosovo, only to open an avenue for Albanian Kosovars to attack Serb Kosovars. The Albanian Muslims have since burned down dozens of centuries-old Christian churches. In an effort to establish a Greater Albania, Albanian Muslim rebels also launched attacks in Macedonia.

NIGERIA: There are violent religious clashes in the city of Kaduna in northern Nigeria beginning February 21 2004 and have continued. Kaduna is the second largest city in the north. The clashes followed a march by tens of thousands of Christians to protest the proposal to introduce Muslim sharia law as the criminal code throughout Kaduna state. Reports speak of rival armed gangs of Christians and Muslims roving the streets. Churches and mosques have been put to the torch. Corpses were seen lying in the streets and people's bodies hanging out of cars and buses, apparently killed while attempting to flee the violence. Local human rights workers said that more than 400 had been killed as a result of the clashes.

SUDAN: The largest country in Africa, has been plagued by a succession of unstable civilian and military governments since it gained independence in 1956 from an Anglo-Egyptian condominium. The long-running conflict continues between the Arab Muslim northerners of Sudan, (the base of the government), and the African Christians of the south. In the mid-90s Sudan was home to Osama bin Ladin, the international terrorist responsible for the World Trade Center attack. It is estimated that more than 1,2 million people have been killed in the Sudan war, brining devastation to the Sudanese economy.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: At war with terrorism.

PHILIPPINES: The Phillipines armed forces, with assistance of US troops, are fighting Moslem rebels - they have been linked to Osama bin Laden's el Qaeda terrorist group - on the southern islands of the country. Muslim rebel groups seek autonomy/independence from the mostly Christian Philippines. One rebel group, the Abu Sayaf Group, is believed linked to Osama bin-Laden's Al-Qaida. This connection, plus their tactic of kidnapping and beheading Americans, led the United States to send Special Forces to aid the Philippine Army.




1) immaculate conception
2) died at 33
Drunken Santas run riot in Auckland

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) -- A group of 40 people dressed in Santa Claus outfits, many of them drunk, went on a rampage through Auckland, New Zealand's largest city, robbing stores, assaulting security guards and urinating from highway overpasses, police said Sunday.

The rampage, dubbed "Santarchy," began early Saturday afternoon when the men, wearing ill-fitting Santa costumes, threw beer bottles and urinated on cars from an overpass, said Auckland Central Police spokesman Noreen Hegarty.

She said the men then rushed through a central city park, overturning garbage containers, throwing bottles at passing cars and spraying graffiti on office buildings.

One man climbed the mooring line of a cruise ship before being ordered down by the captain. Other Santas, objecting when the man was arrested, attacked security staff, who were later treated by paramedics, Hegarty said.

The remaining Santas entered another downtown convenience store and carried off beer and soft drinks.

"They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves," store owner Changa Manakynda said.

Two security guards were treated for cuts after being struck by beer bottles, Hegarty said. Three people, including the man who climbed on the cruise ship, were arrested and charged with drunkenness and disorderly behavior.

Alex Dyer, a spokesman for the group, said Santarchy was a worldwide movement designed to protest the commercialization of Christmas.
does any one have a theory as to why the original abrahamics (jews) are so brilliant in almost all walks of life, save perhqaps boxing.

also can anyone explain why christianity and islam are so millitant and blood thirsty and yet jews were historically never like that. in fact if you discount the hammering the IDF gives to the palestanians (for which i support IDF totally), jews hqave always been at the receiving end.

curiously enough, indiaq has had to suffer immensely from both x-ianity and i-slam... but always had very god relation with the yehudis. is there a reason why yehudis never had any beef with indfia while their [<b>edited - ben watch it</b>] children did??
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Jan 29 2006, 09:15 AM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Jan 29 2006, 09:15 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->curiously enough, indiaq has had to suffer immensely from both x-ianity and i-slam... but always had very god relation with the yehudis. is there a reason why yehudis never had any beef with indfia while their b@st@rd children did??

IMO and IMexperience as an Indian and as a Hindu, the reason is that:

Hindus have always had respect for people who mind their own business-Jews, and I think Jews have the same respect for Hindus. In everyday life, people who have built up their own lives respect other people who have done the same.

And thieves, cheaters and slackers have always had problems with self-made people. The former hate the latter's guts.
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Jan 29 2006, 09:15 AM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Jan 29 2006, 09:15 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->does any one have a theory as to why the original abrahamics (jews) are so brilliant in almost all walks of life, save perhqaps boxing.

also can anyone explain why christianity and islam are so millitant and blood thirsty and yet jews were historically never like that. in fact if you discount the hammering the IDF gives to the palestanians (for which i support IDF totally), jews hqave always been at the receiving end.

curiously enough, indiaq has had to suffer immensely from both x-ianity and i-slam... but always had very god relation with the yehudis. is there a reason why yehudis never had any beef with indfia while their b@st@rd children did??

I think one reason is that Jews don't believe in proselytizing like Hindus.

Like Hindus they are enterprising and do not beg for social hand-outs where ever they go.

They do not believe in robbing ang looting as you have rightly said.

They were always prosecutued like Hindus. Jews were prosecuted all over the world except in India. Hindus were prosecuted in their own country ( still happening).

They do not beileve in destroying nature like Hindus.

Their success is proportionately linked to their prosecution IMHO. More they were prosecuted , more successful they became and instead of fighting physically they defeated their prosecuters in every field except militarily. AS IF THIS WAS THEIR WAY OF REPLYING BACK FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF PROSECUTION.

Now of course with a country of their own, they are capable of beating militarily any 2nd grade power in the world even with such a small population.
some of you have given satisfactory answers as to why jews are harmless whilst the seconmdary semites are not. though i think the reason goes deeper.

as to why they have excelled - hae a look - performing arts, literature, physics (they almost fathered modern physics), math, chess, politics (most top commies as well as half the big shots of capitalistic usa), business, technology, medicine, you name it.

i do not think so you can explain all that away with mere "perseqution made them excel". what is the reason that the ashkenazi are the best at all things that are celebral in nature??
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Jan 29 2006, 10:04 AM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Jan 29 2006, 10:04 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->some of you have given satisfactory answers as to why jews are harmless whilst the seconmdary semites are not. though i think the reason goes deeper.

as to why they have excelled - hae a look - performing arts, literature, physics (they almost fathered modern physics), math, chess, politics (most top commies as well as half the big shots of capitalistic usa), business, technology, medicine, you name it.

i do not think so you can explain all that away with mere "perseqution made them excel". what is the reason that the ashkenazi are the best at all things that are celebral in nature??

When you are fighting with your back up to the wall, you have to give your best shot. When you are small in number AND FIGHTING FOR SURVIVAL your survival instincts work overtime. You put extra efforts to survive. You must have heard of ordinary people performing extraordinarily in dangerous situations which is probably beyond imagination in normal circumstanceS. SURVIVAL INSTINCTS is what drives them to excel. A comparison can be made with Parsis of India who have excelled in academics, business, legal field, every field they went..they are also in a tight corner...hence SURVIVAL INSTINCTS.
i didnt know parsees in india were persecuted the way jews were in europe.

also i dont know too many parsee nobel laureates.
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Jan 29 2006, 10:13 AM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Jan 29 2006, 10:13 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->i didnt know parsees in india were persecuted the way jews were in europe.

also i dont know too many parsee nobel laureates.

They were prosecuted in Iran not in India. Come on Ben_ami.

How many of them are left? When I said they are in tight corner meant that they are becoming extint.

They have certainly performed above average in India if I may say so.
yes they have.

i'll leave parsees aside and come to the topic - why are ashkenazis so intelligent. and why also are the rus so intelligent - its no mean achievement to take on the entire west for 80 years.

PS: i meant persecuted in india. cos your example alluded to their success in india - so i pointed out that there was no stick from hindus.
<!--QuoteBegin-ben_ami+Jan 29 2006, 09:15 AM-->QUOTE(ben_ami @ Jan 29 2006, 09:15 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->is there a reason why yehudis never had any beef with indfia while their [<b>edited - ben watch it</b>] children did??

er... meant to use the word not as a slander.

sort of like saying, the basic gandhian gutlessness of indians is the b@st@rd child of 800 years of islamic hammering.

dont make us bastards - means the gutlessness was one of the unintended side effects.

even so with christianity and islam. the jews never intended to spawn these 2. you clearly got the stick by the wrong end.

anyways, here's the nationalist socialist take on religion.


Background: This is a pamphlet outlining Nazi racial theories. It seems to have been intended primarily for members of the SS, though the copy I am working from carries the stamp of a school library. The book also suggests a plan for covering the content of the booklet in eleven class periods, indicating it was intended for use in the schools. The source: Der Reichsf�hrer SS/SS-Hauptamt, Rassenpolitik (Berlin, 1943

The 15th and 16th centuries during the Middle Ages were a period when the Nordic spirit found characteristic expression in the Copernicus's teaching that the earth revolved around the sun. The earth, which formerly was thought to be the center of the universe, became a small planet that was just as subject to the harmony of eternal laws as the course of the stars. The former world of appearances collapsed, and the Nordic spirit opened the door to a new scientific worldview. As a result of his revolutionary discovery, the worldview the Medieval Church had so successfully built to control people's minds gradually fell apart over the following centuries. Today's scientifically-based worldview freed us from the spiritual domination of the priesthood. We owe to it our great advances in technology, the sciences, and economics. Today we are in the middle of another revolutionary epoch. Revolutionary scientific understandings of genetics and race have found political expression in the National Socialist world view. Once again a world of appearances collapsed, which had concealed from our eyes the true nature of humanity and the connections between body, soul and spirit. The foundation of the Christian worldview is the doctrine of the separation of body and soul; the soul and spirit belong to a world independent of the physical, free of natural laws, and they are even to a certain degree able to free the human body from its natural setting. It is a major shift when racial theory recognizes the unity of body, soul and spirit and sees them as a whole that follows the eternal laws of nature. A new epoch is coming, one perhaps even more revolutionary than that resulting from Copernicus's work. Ideas about humanity and peoples that have endured for millennia are collapsing. The Nordic spirit is struggling to free itself from the chains that the Church and the Jews have imposed on Germandom. And it is not only a spiritual battle, for it finds expression in National Socialism's struggle for power, as well as in the today's battlefields to the east and west. The coming victory will bring a fundamental change in our view of the world, and opens the way for Nordic mankind to a new and greater future.

The human soul does not exist independent of the body, as the Church teaches. Body and soul are an inseparable unity. The living body is the manifestation of the soul.
we know what the nikah is and just how easy it is to break it.

here's the dope about mu'tah.

What is Mut'ah?

Mut'ah is a type of marriage, used in the same way as a permanent marriage (Nikah) in order to make a man and woman physically halal (permissible) to each other. A Mut'ah is a temporary marriage that ends at a fixed period. A prominent imam of the Muslim majority sect Ahlul Sunnah wal Jama'ah, Waheed ad-Deen az-Zaman, in his footnotes of Sunan ibn Majah , defined Mut'ah as follows:

Mut'ah is a type of Nikah until an agreed time. It can be for a day, two days, a month, one year, three years etc.
Waheed ad-Deen az-Zaman. Sunan Ibn Majah. Volume 2, p. 76

Nawawi in his commentary of Sahih Muslim , defined Mut'ah as follows:

Nikah Mut'ah is marriage for a fixed time on Mehr agreed with the woman, when the time expires the marriage comes to an end.
Nawawi. Sharh Sahih Muslim. Volume 4, p. 13

The Sunni scholar Allamah 'Abd Ar-Rahman al-Jazzari in his Al-fiqh 'Ala Al-Madhahib al-Arba' said:

The reality of Nikah Mut'ah is that, in the marriage recital performed with a woman, words are added which stipulate that the marriage is for a fixed time. For example a man shall say 'she shall remain as my wife for a month, or I shall have Nikah Mut'ah with you for a year." The parties themselves act as witnesses. It can occur in the presence of a Wali or witnesses, or without them.
Al-Jazzari. Al-fiqh 'Ala Al-Madhahib al-Arba' (Lahore Edition) Volume 4, page 167

The Sunnis and Shi'as have no disagreement as to its original permissibility, though in recent years a number of Wahabis (the official sect of Saudis) have claimed that Mut'ah was never permissible at all (contradicting the mainstream Sunni attitude).

Sunnis believe that, in spite of its original permissibility in Islamic law, it was later abrogated, whereas the Shi'as reject this view.

According to the Shi'as, Mut'ah was never abrogated and continues to be permissible until the Day of Judgement. The Prophet neither deemed it haram, nor put an end to it, nor did any Quranic verses abrogate it.

Rather, Mut'ah was declared impermissible by the second caliph 'Umar ibn al-Khattab and this continues to be accepted as the majority view of the Sunnis.

How is Mut'ah Contracted?

The contracting of Mut'ah is just like that of Nikah, both require specific words to make the contract halal - both types of marriage have Dower.

The difference between Mut'ah and standard Nikah is that there is no specified time scale, whilst a time scale is necessary with Mut'ah.

In practice, Mut'ah has many Shari'ah rules and regulations

Which type of women can you contract Mut'ah with?

Similar rules that apply for Nikah apply for Mut'ah - if certain types of women are haram for a man to contract Nikah then the same rule applies with Mut'ah.

A man cannot contract Mut'ah with married women, as is the case with a normal.

Iddah (Waiting Period) in Mut'ah

Iddah is obligatory upon women in Mut'ah, just like in Nikah i.e.

1. A woman cannot enter into Mut'ah marriage, till the time she has become pure by observing the 'iddah (waiting period) from her earlier husband.

2. And after expiration of Mut'ah marriage, again she has to observe 'iddah, before getting married (either Nikah or Mut'ah) to any other person.

What is the position of children born from Mut'ah?

There is no difference between the children of Nikah or Mut'ah.

Both are considered legitimate under the Shari'ah - they inherit from their parents, and all Islamic laws apply with regards to paternity.

Do all principles that apply on women in Nikah also apply in Mut'ah?

Yes, the same principle/rights apply - two people cannot contract Mut'ah with the same woman at one given time, and so forth.

Which countries have common practice of Mut'ah?

Mut'ah is commonly practiced in countries that have significant Shias population - Iran, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria and Kuwait.
<b>Religion of "Peace" & Religion of "Love" doing "Peace & Love"!</b> <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo-->

ONITSHA, Nigeria (Reuters) - Revenge attacks against Muslims killed at least 27 people in southeastern Nigeria on Wednesday after anti-Christian violence killed dozens and left thousands homeless in the mainly Muslim north.

The slaughter raised the death toll from five days of religious riots fueled by political tensions in Africa's most populous country to at least 73, and possibly many more.

"There are thousands of boys with cutlasses and sticks on the rampage. I've counted at least 20 bodies here by the Onitsha bridge," said Reuters photographer George Esiri in the southeastern commercial hub of Onitsha.

"They are Hausas. Some of them are burned and some have their stomachs cut open," he said.

The Hausa are the main ethnic group in the north, while Onitsha is located in the ethnic Ibo heartland. Rioting started in Onitsha on Tuesday after news of the northern riots emerged.

The catalysts were different in the three northern cities hit by violence, but observers say their underlying cause was uncertainty over Nigeria's political future and particularly suspicions President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian southerner, plans a third term.

The revenge violence spread on Wednesday to Enugu, another southeastern city, where the Red Cross said at least seven people were killed and 150 injured.

In Onitsha, troops and police were unable to contain the violence. A group of soldiers prevented the mob from crossing the Niger River bridge into neighboring Delta state, but did not attempt to stop the killing.

"We are evacuating some internally displaced people to Asaba for temporary sheltering because they were being overcome and attacked in places where they were initially camped, such as police stations," said a Red Cross official in Lagos.

A doctor at Onitsha general hospital said police carried in 20 corpses, but it was impossible to verify if these were the same people as the doctor did not know where the corpses had come from. The local police commissioner declined to comment.
Oliver Onah, an Onitsha resident, said he saw an enraged mob burn two policemen to death at a roundabout in the city.

Nigeria's 140 million people are split roughly equally between Muslims in the north and Christians in the south, though sizeable religious and ethnic minorities live in both regions.


Religious violence is often stoked by political leaders seeking to bolster their own power bases. Fighting in one part of the country usually sparks reprisal killings elsewhere.

There was no official death toll from Tuesday's fighting in Onitsha but a security source said there were at least a dozen fatalities, possibly many more, while the Red Cross said 325 people were injured and 2,000 displaced.

In the northern cities of Maiduguri, Bauchi and Katsina, at least 46 people were killed and thousands were left homeless during four days of clashes between Muslims and Christians.

In Maiduguri and Bauchi, religious disputes started the trouble while in Katsina the trigger was a constitutional review which is controversial because many see it as an attempt to keep Obasanjo in power.

"The political atmosphere in the nation is already very bad and with high poverty there are a lot of unemployed youths. That is why this kind of crisis starts easily," said Adamu Abubakar, a Red Cross official in Bauchi.

The violence in Katsina and Maiduguri broke out days before the two cities were due to stage public hearings on constitutional reform.

Most Nigerians think the real goal of the hearings is to push for an amendment to the section on presidential tenure, to allow Obasanjo to seek a third term in 2007 elections.

The state governor of the northeastern Nigerian state of Borno called for the removal of all tenure limits on elected office holders at a constitutional review hearing there on Wednesday while thousands of protesters gathered outside.

There is strong opposition to a third term in the north because many there feel the presidency should go to one of them in 2007 after eight years of Obasanjo.

<i>(Additional reporting by Ijeoma Ezekwere and Chukwujama Eze in Enugu, Tume Ahemba in Lagos) </i>
<b>World Religions after 9/11</b>

horse sh1t about prophet madman, from islamic site -

beginner's guide to islamic laws - http://www.al-islam.org/laws/
VERY important read - http://www.islamawareness.net/Fastest/

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