Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Niatirb and Celebrating Exmas

Archbishop Charles Chaput writes an article I've written in my head several times, but never as eloquently.

Fifty years ago C.S. Lewis published an ironic little essay called, Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter from Herodotus. In it, he reverses the letters of his home country, “Britain.” Then he writes about the strange winter customs of a barbarian nation called Niatirb.

It’s worth reading as we get deeper into Advent. I’ll share with you just one passage.

In the middle of winter when fogs and rains most abound, (the Niatirbians) have a great festival called Exmas, and for 50 days they prepare for it (in the manner which is called,) in their barbarian speech, the Exmas Rush.

When the day of the festival comes, most of the citizens, being exhausted from the (frenzies of the) Rush, lie in bed till noon. But in the evening they eat five times as much 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 the reckoning of how much they have spent on gifts and on the wine.

(Now a) 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 Niatirbians, rise early on that day with shining faces and go before sunrise to certain temples where they partake of a sacred feast.

But (as for) what Hecataeus says, that Exmas and Crissmas are the same, (this) is not credible. It is not likely that men, even being barbarians, should suffer so many and so great things (as those involved in the Exmas Rush), in honor of a god they do not believe in.

What Lewis wrote about in Britain half a century ago is increasingly true about our own country today. We’re already half-way through Advent. What have we done to really live it?

The world has an ingenious ability to attach itself to what Christians believe; tame it, subvert it, and then turn it against the very people who continue to believe. Too many Americans don’t really celebrate Christmas. They may think they do, but they don’t. They celebrate Exmas.


At 11:56 AM, Blogger FieldOfBarley said...

Interesting! An awesome and ascerbic talent, that Lewis. Thanks, Jeff.


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