Friday, 10 December 2010

Tenth Day of Advent

- December 10th -

Sadly I didn’t discover Clement Clarke Moore’s wonderful Christmas poem The Night Before Christmas (or A Visit From St. Nicholas) until I was in my twenties.

I bought an illustrated copy from a local bookshop while I was at university, and, after reading it for the first time that Christmas Eve, immediately wished I’d had this read to me as a child. It’s such a beautiful little poem, set at midnight on Christmas Eve, as Jolly Old St. Nicholas drops in on a quite little suburban house in America, to leave presents under the tree for the family.

Moore’s poem is, perhaps, the single most important contributor to the Christmas myth since the story of the Nativity. It is here that we get our first detailed description of Father Christmas, a description that has become the blue print for how we imagine the character to this day.

First published in 1823, the author actually borrowed the conception of Father Christmas from fellow writer and good friend Washington Irving (author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) yet Moore stamped his own mark upon the legendary character by having him deliver his presents to the family on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day, as was traditional up to that point.

The Night Before Christmas is a poem that demands to be read aloud; in the evening, in front of a roaring fire, preferably, while the snow falls gently outside and all the family gather around you on the sofa.

Like Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol, I read this every Christmas Eve, either to myself, or aloud to whoever wants to hear it. One day I hope to read it to my own children, preferably in front of that roaring fire.

There’s only two things that are more Christmassy than Moore’s poem…but to find out what those are you’ll have to wait and see.

1 comment:

  1. My Mum brought me a lovely illustrated copy back from the States when I was quite young (about 6 or 7) and I loved it long after I knew the truth about Santa. The book was passed down through my younger sister and brothers, all of whom have since bought a copy to read to their kids. It is a magical poem that captures the magic of Christmas :-)