Tuesday, December 23, 2008

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS


When my three sisters and I were children, my dear father, Louie used to tell us (all by heart) of the wonderful poem written by Clement Moore back in the early 1800's. One hundred and seventy-five years ago, today, this amazing poem was published for the very first time. We kids used to love our father narrating and telling us all this wonderful poem. It was called "The Night Before Christmas." And every time I hear it again, I smile and cry a little, because it renders of the most best memories I have of my dear father. We were a very poor family. My father was a house painter. Back in those days, weather like we have been having lately would have put my father out of work. Back then, there was lead in all paint and it was all oil based. There would have been no way that kind of paint would dry in the cold rainy climate, we have been having this last week of Christmas. But I will tell you that my amazing mother and father always had a wonderful Christmas for us kids. No matter what, Christmas always came in abundance to all of us who lived at 142 West Live Oak Street in San Gabriel, California. God bless my dear father and mother for making it always so. The pile of presents under that always magnificent tree will always hold a special place in my heart. Christmas this year is different this year because I am out of work, but I am enjoying it more than ever. I am actually getting to make cookies and bake cakes and do shopping at places other than the mall. But just in case, you don't know this poem: here it is:


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 mama 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!"
Clement Clarke Moore (1779 - 1863) wrote the poem "Twas The Night Before Christmas also called “A Visit from St. Nicholas" in 1822. It is now the tradition in many American families to read the poem every Christmas Eve. The poem Twas the night before Christmas has redefined our image of Christmas and Santa Claus. Prior to the creation of the story of Twas the night before Christmas St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children, had never been associated with a sleigh or reindeers! The author of the poem Twas the night before Christmas was a reticent man and it is believed that a family friend, Miss H. Butler, sent a copy of the poem to the New York Sentinel who published the poem. The condition of publication was that the author of Twas the night before Christmas was to remain anonymous. The first publication date was 23rd December 1823 and it was an immediate success. It was not until 1844 that Clement Clarke Moore claimed ownership when the work was included in a book of his poetry. Clement Clarke Moore came from a prominent family and his father Benjamin Moore was the Bishop of New York who was famous for officiating at the inauguration of George Washington. The tradition of reading Twas the night before Christmas poem on Christmas Eve is now a Worldwide institution.

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