It was called simply enough, the pageant, just that, the pageant. Everyone in the township knew what this meant; the farmers as composed the congregation at Liberty Corners kirk, of the Methodist stripe, every year put on the drama described by St. Luke’s 20 verses, “And it came to pass in those days that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”
What writer can fail to admire this opening line for it has with it the elements of legend and a prose style that beckons the reader.
St. Luke loses the edge momentarily at the second verse with an aside intended for historians to fix the time, “And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria,” a line generally omitted by pageant-makers because it is only dour historical types who give a rat’s ass anyway. Besides it messes up the sentence flow that neatly resumes with “and all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.”
There is some disagreement whether this was a Roman tax imposed by Caesar Augustus on Judea in the form of what we would call a head tax. Or a tax imposed by the local governor, known even to the present day to carry a popular resentment. Especially so in territories where municipal needs might be viewed quite obliquely, further differentiated when reigning religions are diametrically opposed.