The Real Story! The Night Before Christmas!
What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future.
It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.
The real Christmas giving That makes this life worth living
And shows that we are any use in this old world of care Is to give where it is needing
And pass not by unheeding The wants of those around us who do not get their share. Some humble, little present
Or a smile that’s warm and pleasant Will please a child or cheer those hearts that oft for kindness yearn And will give more real pleasure
Than a ton of costly treasure That we send our friends, expecting something better in return.
Charlie Farricielli President
An edition of the Troy Sentinel from 1823 displays “An Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas” in Troy, N.Y., Monday, Nov. 26, 2007. The poem spread beyond this bustling, blooming Hudson River city as papers and almanacs elsewhere reprinted it, and 184 years later, there are still dissenting views of who wrote it. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
Submitted anonymously, the poem charmed editors who published it anyway. It started like this:
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house …”
The rest is Christmas history.
“Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” spread beyond this bustling, blooming Hudson River city as papers and almanacs elsewhere reprinted it. The poem helped cement the popular image of Santa as a “right jolly old elf” with a twinkle in his eye and eight reindeer (no Rudolph yet). Quoted by kids, co-opted by advertisers, celebrated in songs and shows, it is one of the most famous American poems.
And 184 years later, there are still dissenting views about who wrote it.
Clement Clarke Moore claimed credit 21 years after the poem appeared in the Troy paper. Moore was a wealthy Bible scholar, the sort of man that the phrase “pillar of society” was meant to describe – pious, accomplished, esteemed family – and the claim was universally accepted.
Or almost so.
Soon after Moore’s name became linked to the poem, counterclaims were made that a Revolutionary War veteran from the Hudson Valley named Henry Livingston was the true author. Livingston’s relatives claimed he read the poem aloud to his family years before the Troy publication. Livingston’s champions maintain that Moore – that God-fearing pillar of rectitude – lied.
“This comes up every year,” said Kathryn Sheehan of the Rensselaer County Historical Society as she pulled the old St. Nicholas file. The collection of copied articles, testimonies and letters provides no definitive answer on the poem’s authorship, though it tells some good stories.
Moore taught at Columbia College and lived with his family in New York City on a big estate in Manhattan called Chelsea (it gave its name to the neighborhood). If not for the Christmas poem, his literary claim to fame likely would have been a two-volume Hebrew dictionary.
According to his descendants, Moore’s muse struck while out sleigh riding to fetch a turkey on Christmas Eve in 1822 – maybe the moonlight on the snow gave the “lustre of midday to objects below.” Moore later explained that the poem was a trifle, written only for the pleasure of his family. After years of rumors, he accepted authorship in 1844 upon publication of a book of poems.
Livingston is a more obscure historical figure. A gentleman farmer who lived midway between New York City and Troy in Poughkeepsie, he had many interests. One was writing light verse in anapest – two short syllables followed by a long stressed one. The famous example, of course, is: ‘Twas the NIGHT before CHRISTmas.
Livingston’s proponents believe he composed the poem before 1808 for his family. The big problem with their case is the lack of evidence that Livingston ever claimed credit before his death in 1828.
“I don’t think Henry ever needed to be acknowledged,” said Mary Van Deusen, a descendant of Livingston. “The more you read his work, the more you realize the man was so contented in himself.”
Van Deusen drew fresh attention to her cause by persuading literary detective Don Foster to investigate. The Vassar College English professor examines texts for clues to authorship, most famously when he unmasked journalist Joe Klein as the author of “Primary Colors” during the Clinton administration.
Foster devotes a chapter to the debate in his 2000 book, “Author Unknown,” and concludes that Moore was more Scrooge than jolly elf. Moore wrote poems, though often with a finger-wagging tone. Consider his take on fun-loving girls of Manhattan: “Shame! shame! heart-rending thought! deep-sinking stain … arts first taught by prostitutes of France!”
Clement Clarke Moore 1779 ~ 1863
Moore was born on July 15, 1779, in a large mansion, on his parents’ Chelsea estate that encompassed the area that is now 18th to 24th Streets between Eighth and Tenth Avenues in Manhattan. The house itself was located at what is now Eighth Avenue and West 23rd Street. He was the only child of heiress Charity Clarke and Dr. Benjamin Moore, Episcopal Bishop of New York, Rector of Trinity Church, and President of Columbia College. Moore was educated at home in his early youth and graduated first in his class from Columbia in 1798.
He became a well-known and respected scholar and, typical for an educated person of his period, Moore’s publications related to a wide variety of topics such as religion, languages, politics, and poetry.
When he wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas in 1822, Moore was a Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, as well as Divinity and Biblical Learning, at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church. Located on land donated by the “Bard of Chelsea” himself, the seminary still stands today on Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st Streets, in an area known as Chelsea Square. Moore’s connection with that institution continued for over twenty-five years.
At the age of thirty, he compiled a Hebrew lexicon, the first work of its kind in America. He was forty-three when he wrote A Visit from St. Nicholas, but it was not until he was sixty-five, in 1844, that he first acknowledged that he was the author of the famous verses by including the poem in a small book of his poetry entitled Poems, which he had published at the request of his children. He translated Juvenal, edited his father’s sermons, wrote treatises and political pamphlets, including his well-known 1804 attack on our third president in Observations Upon Certain Passages in Mr. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, Which Appear to Have a Tendency to Subvert Religion and Establish a False Philosophy, and was often a contributor to the editorial pages of local newspapers. He also wrote George Castriot, Surnamed Scanderbeg, King of Albania, which appeared in 1852 and was highly commended at the time.
Despite this scholarship, it was the simple but magical poem about the mysterious Christmas Eve visitor that has kept the memory of Clement Clarke Moore alive. Although he was embarrassed for most of his life that his scholarly works were overshadowed by what he publicly considered a frivolous poem, Moore will forever be remembered as the person who truly gave St. Nicholas to the world. The poet of Christmas Eve lived a long and productive life and died in Newport, Rhode Island, his summer home, on July 10, 1863, just a few days short of his eighty-fourth birthday. Along with members of his family, he is buried in the Washington Heights area of New York City, in Trinity Cemetery at the Church of the Intercession on Upper Broadway at 155th Street.
The Poem That Saved Christmas
The Poem That Saved Christmas (well, almost): Of all the classic Christmas readings, this poem probably has the most colorful history. We know when it was first published, but there is some controversy about who actually wrote it in the first place. That said, the poem reshaped our nation’s view of St.Nicholas, and even helped the celebration of Christmas, at a time when the holiday had been drifting into neglect and even disrepute.
By the time that the Troy Sentinel first published this poem anonymously in 1823, Christmas celebrations were in some decline. In some circles, year-end parties had become so raucous that Christmas was no longer really a “family” holiday. In other, more religous circles, some wanted to wipe out, not only the raucous year-end celebrations, but also Christmas itself, which was “guilty by association.” Even poor St. Nicholas was not the cheerful, red-robed, chubby soul that we imagine today – rather he often dressed in brown or green, was relatively slender, and was as likely to dole out punishment as gifts.
The poem’s clever verse and fresh view of “St. Nick” were well-received. “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was republished anonymously several more times before 1937, when it was first published under the name of Clement Clarke Moore, a well-known clergyman.
In the meantime, another prominent family, the Livingstons had always understood that their father and grandfather, Major Henry Livingstone had written the poem. After learning that Moore had claimed credit for the poem, several generations of Livingston’s heirs tried to “set the record straight.” In recent years, they have drawn at least one well-known expert to their side. Still, most current publications follow the tradition of giving Clement C. Moore credit for the work.
On the other hand, there is no controversy about the success of the poem. Many believe that the poem eventually changed the way Americans thought about St. Nicholas, and even about Christmas. From the first publication, the poem’s refreshing approach, cheerful imagery, and memorable lines caught the imagination of young and old. Within a generation, the American public’s image of “St.Nick” had begun to evolve toward something like the plump, reindeer-driving, red-gowned, universally cheerful icon we know as Santa Claus. And Christmas had begun to be something more like the family-oriented holiday we think of today.
The poem is still fresh; except for references to shutters and other things we don’t use so much anymore, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” could have been written in our lifetimes, instead of nearly two centuries ago. In fact, Dr. Suess used the same rythm in much of his poetry, including “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
Even the authorship controversy has generated some very positive “side effects.” During their many hours of research, the Livingstone heirs have studied just about every version of the poem that was published between 1823 and 1917, adding to a wealth of knowledge on related subjects.
Read aloud, and enjoy!
A Visit From St. Nicholas
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 down for a long winter’s nap,
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
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, Donder 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 hand, 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,
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 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!”
My Christmas Wish For You
My Christmas wish for you, my friend
Is not a simple one
For I wish you hope and joy and peace
Days filled with warmth and sun
I wish you love and friendship too
Throughout the coming year
Lots of laughter and happiness
To fill your world with cheer
May you count your blessings, one by one
And when totaled by the lot
May you find all you’ve been given
To be more than what you sought
May your journeys be short, your burdens light
May your spirit never grow old
May all your clouds have silver linings
And your rainbows pots of gold
I wish this all and so much more
May all your dreams come true
May you have a Merry Christmas friend
And a happy New Year, too ..
With Love And Blessings at Christmas,