Christmas themed books abound these days, and while good selections can be found, I also love the classics. One of my favorites is actually a poem entitled “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore, although most people know the work by the first line–” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
Legend has it that Moore composed his poem while traveling by sleigh on a shopping errand one snowy winter day. He wrote the poem-story for his daughters, and it was published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823. At first Moore didn’t want to be connected to literature that lacked scholarly merit. But the poem became quite popular, reprinted frequently, and in 1837 Moore’s name appeared as its author, though he didn’t acknowledge the piece until eight years later when, at the insistence of his daughters, he included it in his anthology.
Moore drew his inspiration for St. Nick from a Dutch handyman he knew as well as the historical St. Nicholas and his friend Washington Irving’s writings. Our modern version of Santa Claus can be traced back to his wonderful, magical poem, and the tradition of Christmas gift-giving was greatly affected by it.
Whatever you call it, “A Visit from St. Nicholas”–or ” ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” if you prefer–is an American treasure of classic (and Christmas) literature.