Troy, New York: December 23, 1823

Here’s the poem which is now known as Twas The Night Before Christmas.

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

“Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”

COMMENTARY:

In the December 23, 1823 edition of the Sentinel, a Troy-New York newspaper, a poem appeared which would change the Christmas traditions in the English-speaking world.  The poem was simply titled, A Visit From St. Nicholas.

It gave St. Nicholas, a visitor from the far North, a distinct personality with a mythos which survives to this day.  It would be in 1844 when it was revealed that the poem was written by Clement Clarke Moore, Professor of Theology at the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church. He had written it for his children.

Because of his position in the community and the aversion to the Christmas celebration by many Protestants because of its Roman Catholic trappings, the poem was published anonymously.  It was his children who insisted their father reveal himself to the world as the author of this classic poem.

I find it amazing that just a short span of time ago Christmas was questionable because of its association with the Roman Catholic Church.  The animosity between the two Christian bodies was a sad reflection on their Master, the Nazarene Teacher, who taught and lived an inclusive kingdom of all men and women.

Unfortunately, today in the Christian world there is a lot of tension among certain Christians. What these contenders seem to fail to grasp is that malcontent, prejudice and intolerance have no place during the Christmas season.  In fact there is no place any time of the year for these base human elements.

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G. D. Williams       © 2011

 

 

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