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Keep the Saturn in Saturnalia

By Amanda Marcotte
Monday, December 23, 2013 10:23 EDT
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The “war on Christmas” once again proves to not exist, but continues to be an imaginary war being used to justify actual abuse of non-Christians and anyone who might believe that Christians should not be upheld as superior to everyone else. The latest example happened in South Jersey. Freedom From Religion decided to respond to a big banner that’s flown over the street in Pitman, NJ every year that reads “Keep the Christ in Christmas” with a billboard on the highway that says “Keep the Saturn in Saturnalia”. Local residents are not handling the cheeky reminder that the Winter Solstice was once a pagan holiday that Christians stole because they knew they could never stop people from celebrating it.

Several protesters descended on the billboard over the weekend. A man dressed in a full red Santa suit stood sentry in the cold for hours, holding a placard that referenced “Obamass.” On Sunday, a family of four attempted to shroud the sign with picture of Jesus before they were shooed away by police.

Town officials followed the weekend protests on Facebook. But the attempt to burn down the sign ratcheted up their concerns….

An off-duty police officer witnessed the latest assault on the sign Tuesday about 11:45 p.m., said Chief Robert Zimmerman. Two white men pulled up in a silver and blue Ford 150 pickup truck with a ladder rack. They poured gas around the supports, set it ablaze and quickly fled.

“They were not successful,” Zimmerman said. “The posts are steel and didn’t ignite at all.”

I would love to talk to the people who are trying to deface it by asking them what they are so afraid of. Are they afraid by mentioning the ancient god Saturn, they will invoke him and he will wreak havoc in revenge for being cast aside in favor of these shiny new gods like Jesus? Are they worried that the reminder that Christmas used to be Saturnalia means we have to stop celebrating Christmas because the pagans had it first? Or are they worried that the billboard will provoke a forbidden thought: If there were other gods that no one believes in anymore, could it be that your own god is just as much a myth? But since that thought is forbidden, even admitting you worry about thinking it is a form of thinking it, so I imagine they wouldn’t admit that. So, I’m guessing the answers will be a bunch of incoherent rage that non-Christians aren’t bowing and scraping before Christians.

But beyond that really is a fear that if non-Christians are allowed an equal space in society, then people, especially young people, might start to realize that you don’t have to be a Christian. And, let’s be blunt: A huge chunk of people, upon finding out they don’t have to be Christians, are going to say, “Well fuck that then, I’m sleeping in on Sundays.” That’s a huge fear underlying this.

Of course, we all know what the true meaning of Christmas is: Trying to scratch out a little privacy for yourself in midst of all the overwhelming familial chaos.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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