Monday, November 28, 2011

Pagan Origins, My Donkey

My green and silver Christmas tree
This time of year I can’t get enough of Christmas trees. I love all Christmas decorations, really—except for big plastic snowmen—but trees are the quintessential decoration.

Apparently, the first Christmas trees date to the fifteenth century in Estonia and Latvia and the sixteenth century in Germany. Some say the Christmas tree has pagan origins, but there’s no evidence for that. Except that it’s a tree, it’s green, and you bring it into your house—which is enough for some people, I guess. It just seems pagan.

But in Europe, where most American Christmas customs originated, pagans did not cut down entire trees and bring them into their homes for the winter solstice. Goodness knows what other peoples and cultures have done with trees through the millennia. I don’t really think about it when I decorate my tree. I know what I’m celebrating, and I know the One who made the trees.

Other symbols of Christmas—mistletoe, holly and ivy, evergreen garlands—are clearly connected to pagan celebrations, and it doesn’t bother me one bit. If anything, I’m pleased Christians have taken them over and made them our own. They’re part of God’s creation. They belong to Him.

I don’t care what the Celts and druids did with plants when it got cold outside, or what Norse mythology says about mistletoe. Some Christians feel otherwise, but I think they’re mistaken. And I believe they’re caving to secular propaganda: "Pagan symbols are older than Christmas, so Christianity must be a myth." That’s called a non sequitur.

Are we supposed to cast back though human history, vetting each Christmas decoration we wish to use, making sure it was never misused?

When Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, the crowd placed palm branches at the animal’s feet. If only they’d known that the Egyptians used to bring palms into their homes at the winter solstice to celebrate the rebirth of Ra, the sun god, they might have avoided the pagan scandal of it all. And the apostle Paul might not have compared grafted olive shoots to saved souls if he’d known that in Greek mythology, the goddess Athena planted the first olive tree.

Of course, the most frequently targeted Christmas symbol is the date of the holiday itself. I have to chuckle when someone on radio or TV announces, as if for the first time, that Jesus was almost certainly not born on December 25, and that it wasn’t until the fourth century that the date was set (in the West). This is always pronounced in a spiteful, gleeful kind of way—along with the suggestion that Christians chose this date because the Romans celebrated Saturnalia in late December—as though Christianity itself crumbles in the face of the Great Date Affair.

Should you care what the Romans did during Saturnalia? Or what neopagans today do on the winter solstice? Maybe, but only because knowing these things will arm you the next time some anti-Christian busybody tells you that Christianity is a myth because the Norse god Baldur was killed with an arrow fashioned out of mistletoe.

Holly berries, garlands, the trees we decorate when we celebrate the birth of Christ—these are Gods gifts, His creation. They don’t belong to pagan mythology. Or to neopagans, in spite of their appropriation. If anything, neopagans have pirated God’s good gifts and denied him the thanks due for creating them.

Saturnalia, the rebirth of Ra? These were shadows pointing to the real thing to come: the birth of Christ. The God who created the sun—and winter, holly, and evergreens—made use of them all, throughout history. They were whispers: Look. Look what’s coming.


Monday, November 21, 2011

Interview: Cherie Burbach

It’s a pleasure to welcome Cherie Burbach to my blog today. Cherie writes about friendship, dating, family, and relationships at (NY Times) and Life Goes Strong (NBC/Universal). She has penned eleven books and ebooks, including Internet Dating Is Not Like Ordering a Pizza and 21 Ways to Promote Your Book on Twitter, and has published over 500 articles on the subjects of health, sports, and lifestyle. For more info, visit her website,

Cherie, you have a lot going on in your life! You’re an author of both fiction and nonfiction, a poet, an expert on social media, and an active blogger, among other things. How on earth do you manage your time?

Ha! I don't know if I'm an expert in social media, but I do use it quite a lot in promoting my work. I think the key to juggling everything is blocking off time for various things. For instance, the first thing I do when I get up is check email, update links to Facebook or Twitter, and then I log off. I spend the next few hours updating one of my own blogs, and then I log off of that, and spend the next several hours writing for clients. I trade off each day on the projects I work on, but that's generally how I get it done.

Since freelance writing is my main job, I use weekend hours to do fiction. Poetry I tend to write daily, usually at the end of the night.

Time blocks are key! It's too easy to get sucked into Facebook or Twitter during the day, so when I do have to log on I try and give myself a time limit.

Tell us about your current writing project.

I have a couple writing gigs I just adore right now, at (where I write about the topic of friendship), and Life Goes Strong (where I write about midlife dating, care giving, and spirit.) I really enjoy the topics I'm writing about, and it makes the days go really fast.

On the book side of things, I'm working on several nonfiction books and a novel.

Where do you find ideas for your writing? What inspires you?

Everyday life really inspires me. I'm one of those people who constantly carries a notebook around with her to jot down ideas and notes.

When did you know you wanted to write? Do you have one of those "When I was six, I picked up a pen . . ." stories?

Yes, I do! I always wrote short stories, and when I was in 2nd grade my teacher told my mom that my writing had a "poetic quality" to it and that I should try writing poetry. My first thought was: "Poetry? Ick!" I didn't know anything about it (and to be honest, I still don't.) But poetry was a saving grace for me, and really helped me through a lot of childhood trauma. I still feel like poetry helps me process the outside world. I feel like I've been writing forever.

How do you divide your time between writing and blogging?

Blogging takes up a lot of my time right now because that's where I make my money. I always feel like when I get my blogging done, my writing work (which is usually books) is my bonus time. If I had to divide it up, it would probably be blogging 75% of the time and writing the rest.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I like to cook, paint, and my latest passion is putting glass sculptures together. (One example is here: I love doing crafts and mixed media pictures also.

Just for fun, what was your favorite childhood book?

Any of the Madeline books. I was so influenced by them I even named my dog Genevieve.

Tell us what’s coming up in your writing life.

I'm working on a new novel which is in a very different genre that I'm used to. So I'm doing research and hope to have some time to work up a draft over the holidays.

Any last thoughts?

Thank you so much for the interview! I would encourage anyone reading this to help out a favorite author: write a review, write and let them know you enjoyed one of their books, pray for them, send them positive thoughts, and visit their blogs. There can be a lot of negativity in the writing world sometimes and writers appreciate any bit of positivity that comes our way.

How can readers connect with you?

I've got contact info at each of my blogs (listed here: Or via Twitter: @brrbach.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Interview and Book Giveaway: Author K Dawn Byrd

It’s my pleasure to welcome K Dawn Byrd to my blog today. K Dawn is the author of inspirational novels in several genres, including romance, romantic suspense, and young adult. She maintains an active and popular blog and is the moderator of the Christian Fiction Gathering group on Facebook. If all that weren’t enough, she holds a master’s degree in professional counseling from Liberty University.

To win an ebook copy of K Dawn’s latest book, This Time for Keeps, just leave a comment at the end of the interview (along with your email address so K Dawn can contact you). A winner will be chosen at week’s end from among those commenting. And now, without further ado, here’s K Dawn.

Dawn, tell us about This Time for Keeps.

India McGuire's peaceful life is shattered when on the night of her engagement to David Richards, she comes face to face with Chase Porter, a long lost love. India must come to terms with her overpowering feelings for Chase and choose between David, the neighbor who says he loves her, and Chase, the man who broke her heart.

Chase's plans of leaving quietly turn to disaster when he finds that it's impossible to disappear without seeing India one last time. Feelings begin to surface that he believed buried forever and he finds himself fighting to win her back even as David struggles to hold onto her.

India longs to follow her heart, but she's been hurt too deeply. Who will she choose? The neighbor who can provide stability or the man she vowed to love forever who may once again heed to the call of the open road?

What inspired you to write this book?

This Time for Keeps actually started out as a WWII romance. I'm a WWII buff and wanted to write a love story about a man who was missing in action and eventually returns from war to find his girlfriend engaged to someone else. For some reason, the WWII era just didn't seem right for my characters, so it became a contemporary romance.

What draws you to inspirational romance?

I love reading, but so much of what's on the market is so full of smut and cursing that I don't enjoy reading it as much as I would if it were clean. I write what I love to read. I'm a Christian and it seems logical to write for the clean romance for the Christian market. All of my books so far have had a least one Christian character.

Many of my blog’s readers like to know about an author’s writing process. Do you outline? Do you keep a writing schedule?

I plot a lot before I get started, so much so that I pretty much have the entire book mapped out before my fingers hit the keys. This allows me to write all my books in 30-day marathons, my own personal NaNoWriMo, if you will.

What do you do when you're not writing?

When I'm not writing I'm reading or marketing my own work.

What’s coming up in your writing future?

I have four releases for 2012. They are:

January 15: Zoe Mack & The Secret of the Love Letters (college-age mystery/romance).
April 15: Shattered Identity (the sequel to Mistaken Identity, young adult romance).
June 15: Zoe Mack & The Case of Fatal Attraction.
December 15: Zoe Mack book 3 (not yet titled).

Any last thoughts?

Thanks so much for hosting me!

How can readers connect with you?

Zoe Mack blog: