Another way to see it, part 2

Continued from part one

But during these fifty days the oldest, poorest and most miserable of the citizens put on false beards and red robes and walk about the market-place; being disguised (in my opinion) as Cronos.  And the sellers of gifts no less than the purchasers become pale and weary, because of the crowds and the fog, so that any man who came into a Niatirbian city at this season would think some great public calamity had fallen on Niatirb.  This fifty days of preparation is called in their barbarian speech the Exmas Rush.
But when the day of the festival comes, then most of the citizens, being exhausted with the Rush, line in bed till noon.  But in the evening they eat five times as much super as on other days and, crowning themselves with crowns of paper, they become intoxicated.  And on the day after Exmas they are very grave, being internally disordered by the supper and the drinking and reckoning how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.   For wine is so dear among the Niatirbians that a man must swallow the worth of a talent before he is well intoxicated.
Such, then, are their customs about Exmas.  But the few among the Niatirbians have also a festival, separate and to themselves, called Crissmas, which is on the same day as Exmas.  And those who keep Crissmas, doing the opposite to the majority of the Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.  And in most of the temples they set out images of a fair woman with a new-born Child on her knees and certain animals and shepherds adoring the Child. (The reason of these images is given in a certain sacred story which I know but do not repeat.)
But I myself conversed with a priest in one of these temples and asked him why they kept Crissmas on the same day as Exmas; for it appeared to me inconvenient.  But the priest replied, It is not lawful, O Stranger, for us to change the date of Crissmas, but would that Zeus would put it into the minds of the Niatirbians to keep Exmas at some other time or not to keep it at all.  For Exmas and the Rush distract the minds even of the few from sacred things.  And we indeed are glad that men should make merry at Crissmas; but in Exmas there is no merriment left.  And when I asked him why the endured the Rush, he replied, It is, O Stranger, a racket; using (as I suppose) the words of some oracle and speaking unintelligibly to me (for a racket is and instrument which the barbarians use in a game called tennis).
But what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, is not credible.  For first, the pictures which are stamped on the Exmas-cards have nothing to do with the sacred story which the priests tell about  Crissmas.  And secondly, the most part of the Niatirbians, not believing the religion of the few, nevertheless send the gifts and cards and participate in the Rush and drink, wearing paper crowns.  But it is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and great things in honor of a god they do not believe in.  And now, enough aabout Niatirb.

~CS Lewis
The timeless writings of CS Lewis, page 506

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