Happy Christmas to All!
by Lloyd Newell
On Christmas Eve 1822, Catherine Elizabeth Moore was preparing food for the poor and discovered that she was short one turkey. It turned out to be a fortunate mistake, because as her husband rode in his carriage to the butcher’s, the bells jingling on his team of horses inspired him to pen a whimsical Christmas poem for his children. After dinner that night, Clement Clarke Moore presented to the family what has become a treasure to us all: “’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house….” And as he read, his children were enchanted.
Since that day, this classic has appeared in countless newspapers and almanacs; it has been recited, illustrated, and performed around the world. Most important, countless youngsters have cozied up on the lap of a parent or grandparent and read of a “miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.”
Clement Moore was a prominent theologian, a professor of classics, and the author of the leading Hebrew dictionary of the time. But that Christmas Eve, he wasn’t writing for publication or praise. This poem about a jolly old elf, sugarplums, and carefully hung stockings was for his family. Perhaps his inspiration came from his love for his small audience. Perhaps it was his way of showing his children what a gift of the heart looks and feels like.
Each of us can give such priceless gifts of the heart. Our gifts may not rhyme, sparkle, or come wrapped in ribbons, but they will be cherished. Cards made at the kitchen table, pictures taken at the last family gathering, handprints of toddlers, recordings of childhood reminiscences, homemade ornaments that promise years of fond memories—in their own priceless way, these and many other expressions of love say, as did Clement Moore’s gift to his children, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”
(from Music & the Spoken Word #4136, December 21, 2008)
A Visit from St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore
‘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 my 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 a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he 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, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop 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 pedler 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 on 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 bowl full 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!”
Moore’s poem has been called “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American” and is largely responsible for many of the conceptions of Santa Claus held from the mid-nineteenth century to today.