Keeping Saturn in Saturnalia

Hot on the heels of Arizona news that one Christian woman was assaulted by another Christian woman in Phoenix because she said “Happy Holidays” rather than “Merry Christmas” (!) comes a New Jersey report that two men attempted to burn down a “Keep Saturn in Saturnalia” billboard put up by the Freedom From Religion Foundation (to counter a “Keep Christ in Christmas” banner hanging over Pitman’s main thoroughfare). It’s not the first attempt to deface/destroy the FFRF billboard since it was unveiled last week.

I have more sympathy for the various vandals in Pitman than I do for the thug in Phoenix – they’re all expressing a deep intolerance of any message that challenges their narrow view of righteous Christian cultural supremacy, but at least in New Jersey they’re not resorting to inter-personal violence to make their point (so far). I expect the scumbags at Fox News are delighted by what their extended “War on Christmas” rabble-rousing has wrought.

The Supreme Court is winding closer to finally ruling on some of the constitutional issues surrounding the Establishment Clause and displays of Christian symbols in public spaces. I predict that whatever they decide Fox News will reckon that the Supremes cravenly caved to the dreaded “PC police”.

(all news stories found in a brief web-search on “war on christmas”)

I’m an atheist, but when people wish me “Merry Christmas” I don’t snarl at them (does anybody?).  I say whatever equivalent to “Thanks! You too!” first comes to mind depending upon how well we know each other’s faith/faithless traditions.  The secular/inclusive alternative tends to be “Season’s Greetings” here in Australia rather than “Happy Holidays” (when it isn’t just “Have a good one”), and we don’t have the same relentless rage-storm about a War on Christmas dominating our conservative media platforms, so there’s generally less tension about it anyway, other than a minor undercurrent of annual angst about dwindling church attendance.

I’m winding down my internet activity for a few weeks to enjoy family and friends time, although I’ll still be responding to giraffe alerts etc.  So, season’s greetings to you all, may everyone have as much or as little traditional celebration as desired, and hurrah for axial tilt.

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47 comments for “Keeping Saturn in Saturnalia

  1. pheenobarbidoll
    December 18, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Shuts them the hell down when you point out holiday comes from holy day. Been having great fun informing pissy Christians about that on my Facebook FL.

    • EG
      December 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm

      How did they not know that?

      • pheenobarbidoll
        December 18, 2013 at 6:55 pm

        Because their heads are so far up their asses, learning thinkystuff is impossible.

  2. December 18, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    Personally I love the holiday season. If I’m ever running short of my yearly quota of religious abloobloobloo, it fills me right up. Between this and the year-round whinge from Hindu fundies who call the wahhhmbulance every time someone wears pants around them, my cup runneth over.

    Or, tl;dr, my feelings on this season:

  3. Computer Soldier Porygon
    December 18, 2013 at 5:33 pm

    Haha. Christmas is The holiday season is weird. Every year at Christmas dinner, my grandmother prays that it will be the last one we spend together (because the grim specter of the Rapture hovers over all). And I’m like, lol man I’m glad to know you value our time together…

    • pheenobarbidoll
      December 18, 2013 at 6:57 pm

      I’ve had days like that, but I wished for the zombie apocalypse not the rapture.

      • Computer Soldier Porygon
        December 18, 2013 at 7:27 pm

        I figure – either way, I’m boned, but at least with the Rapture, I’d immediately know what to do. The Rapture contingency plan is pretty simple.

  4. December 18, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I’ll smile and say “Thanks! You too!” regardless of whatever greeting is directed at me, but I became a “Happy Holidays” adherent my third year in college when I was given a side-eye and a very wry “uh… Thanks…” from one of my professors, who had spent a good amount of the semester telling stories of his very Jewish upbringing.

    Suffice it to say, in spite of his reasonably polite response, I felt like a huge asshole. I’ve erred on the side of Happy Holidays since then.

    I hate the whole yearly happy holidays/merry Christmas debate because it always devolves into bullshit about the PC police and racist as hell “THIS IS CANADA GO BACK WHERE YOU CAME FROM DAMN IMMIGRANTS” chest thumping with not a whiff of irony.

    • PrettyAmiable
      December 18, 2013 at 8:29 pm

      I stick to Happy Holidays too for much the same reason – I knew a couple of Jewish people growing up who had expressed irritation. And what, with how Christians managed to eff over the Jews time and time again, I could see being meaningfully pissed that you’re getting wished a Merry Christmas when a) you don’t celebrate it, b) you have your own holiday during roughly the same time of the year, and c) if Jesus hadn’t been born, maybe you wouldn’t have been so flipping persecuted.

      • Kitty
        December 19, 2013 at 3:17 am

        To be honest, I’m Jewish and “Happy Holidays” just makes me roll my eyes because…people might be saying “Happy Holidays” but when they’re doing it on December 24th (when Hanukkah was in November) in a store filled with tinsel and lights and Christmas specials as we both get ready to leave for a day off that we only get because of Christ…well, yeah, they may be SAYING “Happy Holidays” but they basically mean Merry Christmas anyway. Which just makes it all the more ironic that people have their panties in a twist about not being wished “Merry Christmas” verbatim because, spoiler, “Happy Holidays” is still ALL ABOUT CHRISTMAS.

      • PrettyAmiable
        December 19, 2013 at 2:22 pm

        Super fair. I’m an atheist but was raised Catholic, and it doesn’t hurt me when people wish me happy holidays because I still think of it as the holiday season (plus, when everyone in your family celebrates Christmas, you kind of do too, even if you don’t buy into the ideology). I still have Christian privilege, I think.

      • EG
        December 19, 2013 at 5:54 pm

        On the one hand, me too. On the other hand, “Happy Holidays” annoys the the right-wing Christians so much that it can’t be bad.

      • December 20, 2013 at 12:18 am

        For me, “Happy Holidays” includes New Year’s Eve/Day.

      • Kitten
        December 28, 2013 at 8:50 pm

        I can see how Hanukkah being well over before Xmas Day would make “Happy Holidays” sound disingenuous. However, like Bridget i tend to include New Year’s in “Happy Holidays.” Then again, i just realized that yesterday, i said “Have a good New Year’s” to someone because i mentally checked Xmas off the list.

        I came from a catholic family, but i consider myself a New Pagan. Xmas doesn’t in the least feel like a religious holiday to me, because my family didn’t treat it as such – we didn’t go to church, or talk about Jesus, nor read from the bible; it was all about decorations, food and presents. I have Jewish friends who celebrate Xmas because they don’t consider it a religious holiday either, it’s just a time to share gifts with friends, and get off from work. No one really *wants* to make a big deal of the religious aspect – people want to consume and buy and receive gifts.

        The ultimate irony in all this furor by the piously vain conservative radicals, is that Christ’s actual birthday is NOT in December. When Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman empire, there were many thousands of people, spread over thousands of miles who needed to be converted, without recourse to high speed forms of communication.

        So, Constantine crowbarred Christian holidays onto existing pagan holidays. Xmas was matched up with winter solstice, because that was the pagan celebration of the birth of the “baby” lord of the fields, who would eventually grow up and die during the spring harvest, so Easter was matched up with spring equinox. All saint’s day (Halloween) was matched with the pagan celebration that correlates with the mid-point between autumnal equinox and winter solstice.

        Originally, when Protestant Christians split from the Catholic Church, part of what they rejected was ostentatious celebration. Yet, another irony in all this Xmas furor is that corporate America – including Fox’s owners – makes Xmas about unbridled consumption, something the original Christian conservatives would’ve hated.

    • Tim
      December 19, 2013 at 9:33 am

      In the mid-90s, I worked in a largish midwestern university. We got out for a Christmas break a couple days before, like on December 23, and I went to a supermarket to get stuff like a jillion other people. In the packed store, I ran into a Jewish collegue, an older guy originally from the UK. Despite a generally cranky and curmudgeonly sort of reputation (not altogether unlike myself), he seemed to like me pretty well. I was in an unusually cheerful frame of mind, I suppose because of the break and the holiday spirit. We exchanged greetings and I was on the verge of a holiday expression of some kind and sort of froze. He sensed the indecision, and the reason for it, and simply said, “Enjoy.” “You too!,” I replied and silently thanked him for getting me through an awkward situation so gracefully.

  5. Librarygoose
    December 18, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I said “Happy Holidays!” to a woman who had told me what she was buying was a gift and she countered with, ” You mean CHRISTmas.” (she really put emphasis on the “christ”) So I just kept my intense dealing-with-customers smile and chirped, “For some people, yup!” So she left grumbling about godlessness. Good times.

    • Hrovitnir
      December 21, 2013 at 6:53 pm

      Muah ha ha. Win. No one says “happy holidays” here, and it just doesn’t roll off the tongue. I work in retail so have “have a great christmas” all the time, even though I greatly resent celebrating christian holidays.

      Realistically I figure most people are getting a xmas break and religion has little to do with it, so I hope they enjoy that!

    • December 23, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      I’ve found “have a merry one!” is an easy get-out to use instead of “happy holidays” when it comes to saying this stuff at work. People who expect to hear Christmas hear the merry and assume the Christmas is implied, but it still includes everyone else as well.

      Speaking of, hope my fellow Pagan peeps on here had a merry Yule/Solstice?

      • December 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        Thanks for remembering the southern hemisphere, Bunny.

  6. shfree
    December 18, 2013 at 8:41 pm

    The hardest thing for me is when people, in an effort to make idle conversation are all “So, got your Christmas shopping done yet?” or, “What are your plans for Christmas?” I always feel so rude when I tell them I don’t celebrate it, because then it might turn into a Thing, where I have to explain myself, and then I become one of Those Atheists. (Just like when I have to explain why I’m a vegetarian, even though I never, ever offered my reasons without anyone asking why.) But, if I equivocate, then I feel like I’m a big ol’ liar to myself, you know? Such a rough line.

    • December 19, 2013 at 2:39 am

      Being One Of Those Atheists is about skeezing on women in lifts, not about correcting people’s assumptions about your beliefs.

      • ldouglas
        December 19, 2013 at 3:15 am

        Being One Of Those Atheists is about skeezing on women in lifts, not about correcting people’s assumptions about your beliefs.

        This isn’t funny. Don’t be an asshole.

      • December 19, 2013 at 10:10 am

        Huh? I didn’t see what was asshole about that comment; I read it as “telling others about your beliefs is not an asshole/bad/skeezy thing to do”.

      • December 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm

        mac, if you don’t know what makes bringing up atheists and women in lifts an arsehole move on a thread like this, then I envy you greatly.

        All further elevator related discussion belongs on Spillover.

      • wow
        December 20, 2013 at 2:29 pm

        “One of Those Atheists” is a term of obvious derision. Just like being any other time someone says “I don’t want to be One of Those ______.” [comment snipped by moderator - this moderator sees the "I don't want to be One of Those ______" phrase applied as self-deprecation rather than derision most of the time, and suggests that this intra-atheist nitpicking tack has zero possibility of not degenerating into snarky semantics, and therefore this tack belongs on Spillover]

    • December 24, 2013 at 3:29 am

      Late into the thread, but I tend to ask people if they do stuff for Christmas. It’s a safe enough get-out if they don’t (my mother and I give each other cards, and that’s it). Mercifully we don’t have the “war on Christmas” nonsense here; yeah, there are Chrissie decos everywhere, and shop assistants grinding their teeth to stubs from having to listen to ghastly versions of carols for weeks on end, but I don’t think there’s anything like the religious pressure that seems to happen in some parts of the States. It’s more a commercial grab (she said sourly).

  7. EG
    December 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    I really don’t understand the faux-outrage over “Happy Holidays.” Aren’t we also wishing people a Happy New Year? Isn’t that part of what the plural’s denoting? Do these people not celebrate New Year’s or something?

    • December 18, 2013 at 10:41 pm

      New Year’s Day is anti-Christian.

      There is only one year – the Year of our Lord.

      Jeez, EG, keep up.

    • TimmyTwinkles
      December 18, 2013 at 11:42 pm

      I’ve long thought saying Happy Holidays was just common courtesy, considering there are various other things being celebrated at the same time including nothing at all. It’s sort of sickly ironic that treating others with respect and courtesy is the last thing i expect to see from American Christians these days.

  8. david
    December 19, 2013 at 4:55 am

    I have never noticed anyone in NZ caring at all so I just vary my greetings depending on my mood.

    • December 23, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      I think in NZ we don’t see so many christians muscularly asserting ownership of Xmas, so wishing people a “Merry Xmas” isn’t seen as necessarily a christian thing.

  9. Angie unduplicated
    December 19, 2013 at 7:41 am

    I keep a smile on my face in public and let the other party brandish their phrase of choice. Tiny town has half a dozen pagans, no known Jews, and a sprinkling of Hindus and Muslims. Atheists abound but they are in deep cover. It also helps to remind the RWNJs that the worst wars on Christmas were perpetrated by Christians, specifically Puritans. It confuses them dreadfully and usually quiets them.

  10. CBrachyrhynchos
    December 19, 2013 at 8:23 am

    I duck the issue by sticking with “Have a good day/afternoon/evening.”

    • TimmyTwinkles
      December 19, 2013 at 9:20 am


  11. gratuitous
    December 19, 2013 at 12:00 pm

    Complaining over “Christmas” versus “Holidays” keeps us from contemplating real issues, like income inequality, fair and affordable housing, climate change and so forth. So this whole nontroversy has that going for it.

    • TimmyTwinkles
      December 19, 2013 at 12:16 pm

      Hear hear!

  12. yazikus
    December 19, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Every year I dread making the door sign for my office. If I lead with happy holidays I’ll get client complaints right away, but I want to be inclusive! So I lead with merry Christmas, followed by holiday season and throw in some festive at the end.

    I also get ready for the onslaught of aggressive “Merry Christmas”‘s that will be spat my way after I greet someone with “Happy Holidays”.

    • December 24, 2013 at 3:38 am

      Do they get stroppy about Season’s Greetings? I guess they do.

  13. December 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm

    Well, if I meet a man who believes in keeping Christ in Christmas, I certainly won’t let him make me a cocktail.

    • ldouglas
      December 19, 2013 at 4:51 pm

      I laughed.

  14. Alara Rogers
    December 21, 2013 at 11:49 am

    What’s with all the hate for New Year’s? Do Christians really wish we would all wish them a miserable New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day?

    Personally if anyone ever gave me shit about Happy Holidays I would respond with, “Oh, I’m sorry, I do so hope your New Year’s Eve is *terrible*.”

  15. Ledasmom
    December 21, 2013 at 2:23 pm

    Huh. Looks more like keeping the “id” in “holiday”.

    • December 21, 2013 at 2:33 pm

      /thread. That was beautiful!

  16. McMike
    January 5, 2014 at 9:43 am

    Aaaah the luxury problems of a wealthy nation.

    • Tyris
      January 5, 2014 at 11:44 am

      Arson and assault are luxury problems?

      There is an infinitesimal probability that you’re trying to say something useful here, but we don’t have enough zeroes to calculate it, so we’re just going to work on the assumption that it’s bait and say we need a giraffe here.

      [Thank you for sending a giraffe alert ~ moderator team]

      • McMike
        January 5, 2014 at 4:37 pm

        A whatnow?

Comments are closed.