The Night Before Christmas



The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas" from its first line, and first published in 1823, is largely responsible for the contemporary American conception of Santa Claus, including his appearance, the night he visits, his method of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably.

The poem was first published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. Authorship was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore and the poem was included in an anthology of his works, but his connection with the verses has been questioned by some. Moore's wife is of Dutch descent, being a descendant of the Van Courtlandt family via her mother. She shares bloodlines with Henry Livingston Jr. and Clement Clarke Moore's family is married into the Livingston family as well. Henry Livingston, a New Yorker with Dutch and Scottish roots, is the chief candidate for authorship if Moore did not write it.

An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., reprints the Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen" he adopted, rather than the earlier Dutch version from 1823, "Dunder and Blixem". (Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English, though the German word for thunder is actually "Donner", and the Dutch words would nowadays be "Donder en Bliksem").

Today, some printings alter the grammar and spelling of the poem and replace more archaic words, such as ere, with ones more familiar to readers.

* Moore claimed the poem in 1844. This was at the request of his children. He had preferred to be known for more scholarly works.
* Moore may have had access to A History of New York by "Dietrich Knickerbocker" (Washington Irving) which covers the story of Sinterklaas.
* Moore and Irving were members of the same literary society in New York City and were friends.
* Although some say Moore falsely claimed authorship once before, this has since been disproved. He signed a book as a gift, as one dedicates a book they give to another person. He did not claim authorship. An article written by Seth Kaller proves this rumor false and defends other related arguments.
* Rev. David Butler, who allegedly showed the poem to Sentinel editor Orville L. Holley, was a relative of Moore.
* A letter to Moore from the publisher states "I understand from Mr. Holley that he received it from Mrs. Sackett, the wife of Mr. Daniel Sackett who was then a merchant in this city."
* Although Moore wrote darker poems, Nissenbaum argues that it could have been a social satire of the Victorianization of Christmas.

Evidence to support Livingston as author

* Moore "tried at first to disavow" the poem.
* Use of anapaestic rhyme scheme and metre consistent with Livingston.
* Use of Dutch "Dunder and Blixem" - Livingston's mother was Dutch.
* Phraseology consistent with other Livingston poems.
* Livingston wrote cheerful poems, Moore typically more miserable ones.
* Moore is known to have falsified authorship on another occasion.
* Moore claimed that only two changes were introduced in the first printing, yet it differs from his own on 23 points.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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