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A Visit From St. Nicholas

We put up a tree a real one, the kind that smells like Christmas , keep apple cider warm on the stove top for days, and lay out cookies and milk for Santa. I rode a real donkey down the aisle! In fact, having kids has allowed me to indulge in the holiday all over again, and now I live inside Christmas for far longer, existing on the momentum, and the aftermath, of their excitement.

This year, my 6-year-old started really early with the anticipation. As soon as Halloween was over, this child with the biggest sweet tooth ever declared that Halloween was no longer his favorite holiday; now it is Christmas, because there is Santa Claus. Also, it was a book, not really a poem, in my head, even though I knew it was filled with all those galloping anapests.

So when I turned my attention to this poem, which was written by Clement C. The story goes something like this: right around Christmas time in , Clement Moore went out in a carriage to buy presents for his family. His wife, Catherine, and his six children all between the ages of 8 months and 7 years old waited for him to return so that they could carve the turkey and celebrate the holiday together.

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It was not until the following Christmastime that the poem was printed, so for a whole year those lines were the private property of the Moore family. Harriet Butler made a copy and sent it to Orville L. And that is how it came to be printed on December 23, , in the Troy Sentinel. In many ways this is a typical story of 19th-century verse composition and circulation. Poems were often published anonymously, and often this anonymity gave rise to much-desired readerly speculation and rumor.

And why was Moore so slow to deny authorship of it? If you like, go ahead and read them that way one last time, before I complicate the situation:. 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 tiny reindeer, With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St.

On, Comet! To the top of the porch! Now dash away! Nicholas too. And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

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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 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.

Each of these elements of the narrative is given significant attention and the poem nicely renders the whole incident as both real and magical.

Jessie Willcox Smith’s “Twas The Night Before Christmas” Illustrations

In short, it was, and continues to be, the perfect Christmas poem for a nation that values quasi-historical myths, the home as a place of warmth and safety, and unanticipated acts of benevolence. Nicholas had smoked his pipe, he twisted it in his hatband, and laying his finger beside his nose, gave the astonished Van Kortlandt a very significant look; then, mounting his wagon, he returned over the tree-tops and disappeared. Because Moore was a highly educated man, he would have been completely capable of faithfully rendering the Dutch story of Sinterklaas if that had been his point.

If we based our assessments of art on those things, I think we all know we would never have the pleasure of looking at another Picasso painting or of reading another poem by Ezra Pound again. Moore was what today we would call part of the 1 percent. What that means circa in New York City is that he owned a huge amount of ancestral land in what today is the neighborhood of Chelsea and was inordinately wealthy because of it. It was very strange to Bertie, but on grandpa's tree he found everything he had written on his list.

Was he cured of his bad habit? Not all at once; but when his mother saw that he was particularly heedless she would say, "Remember, Santa Claus does not forget. It was Christmas Day, and Toddy and Tita were alone. Papa and mamma had gone out West to see their big boy who was ill. They had promised to be home for Christmas, but a big snow had blocked the railroad track, and nurse was afraid the train would be delayed until the day after Christmas. What a dull Christmas for two little girls, all alone in the great city house, with only the servants! They felt so lonely that nurse let them play in the big drawing-room instead of in the nursery, so they arranged all the chairs in a row, and pretended it was a snowed-up train.

Tita was the conductor, and Toddy was the passengers. Just as they were in the midst of it, they heard music in the street, and, running to the window, they saw a little boy outside, singing and beating a tambourine. The little boy smiled, but they could not hear what he said, so they told him to come in, and ran to open the big front door. He was a little frightened at first, but the carpet felt warm to his poor bare feet.

He told them that his name was Guido, and that he had come from Italy, which is a much warmer country than ours, and that he was very poor, so poor that he had no shoes, and had to go singing from house to house for a few pennies to get some dinner.

The History of the Poem

Then the folding doors rolled back, and there was the dining-room and the table all set, and Thomas, the black waiter, smiling, just as if it had been a big dinner party instead of two very little girls. Nurse said: "Well, I never! He had never had one like it before. Just as dessert came on, the door opened and in rushed mamma and papa; the train had gotten in, after all. They were so glad to see their darlings happy instead of moping that they gave them each some extra kisses. You may be sure little Guido never went hungry and barefoot after that. Long afterward he would say: "That was a fairy Christmas!

Whenever you feel sad and lonely, if you will just find somebody sadder and lonelier than yourself and cheer them up, it will make you all right. Don't you? Did you ever know a boy Make believe he had a toy? That's the way Babies play; Babies who are young and small Make believe they play at ball! Howard one morning, looking up from a letter she was reading, "I have had a letter from your grandmamma. She writes that she is returning to England shortly.

Now Mrs. Howard, the mother of two of the boys and aunt to the third little fellow, was a widow and very poor, and often found it a hard task to provide for her "three boys," as she called them, for, having adopted her little orphan nephew, she always treated him as her own son.

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She had sometimes thought it strange that old Mrs. Howard should not have offered to provide for Leslie herself but she had never done so, and at last Mrs. Howard had ceased to expect it. But now, right at the end of her letter, Grandmamma Howard wrote "I have been thinking that perhaps it would come a little hard on you to support not only your own two boys, but poor Alice's son, and so, on my return to England, I propose, if you are willing, to adopt one of them, for I am a lonely old woman and shall be glad of a young face about me again.

Howard decided she would say nothing about their grandmother's intention to the boys, as she thought that it was just possible she might change her mind again.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Moore, illustrated by Jan Brett.

Time passed on, and winter set in, and full of the delights of skating, the boys forgot all about the expected arrival of their grandmother. During the Christmas holidays the boys one morning started off to Broome Meadow for a good day's skating on the pond there. They carried their dinner with them, and were told to be sure and be home before dark. As they ran along the frosty road they came suddenly upon a poor old woman, so suddenly that Leslie ran right up against her before he could stop himself.

The old woman grumbled about "lazy, selfish boys, only thinking of their own pleasure, and not caring what happened to a poor old woman! Won't you let me help you? On the way to her cottage the old woman asked him all sorts of questions about himself and his cousins, and then, having reached her cottage, dismissed him with scarcely a "thank you" for the trouble he had taken. But Leslie did not take it much to heart. He raced along, trying his hardest to overtake his cousins before they reached the pond, and was soon skimming about with the rest of them. Squire Leaholme, in whose grounds the boys were skating, afterwards came down to the pond to watch the fun, and, being a kind-hearted old gentleman, offered to give a prize of a new pair of skates to the boy who should win the greatest number of races.

As it was getting late, it was arranged that the racing should come off on the following day, and the Squire invited all the boys who took part in it, to come up to his house to a substantial tea, after the fun was over. But the Squire's skates were not to be won by him, for on the following day as he and his cousins were on their way to the pond, they came across the queer old woman whom they had met on the previous day.

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  • She was sitting on the ground, and seemed to be in great pain. The boys stopped to ask what ailed her, and she told them that she had slipped and twisted her foot, and was afraid that her ankle was sprained, for she could not bear to put it to the ground. Leslie," cried both his cousins, "don't go. You will be late for the races, and lose your chance of the prize.

    He turned first red, then white, and then said, in a husky tone of voice-- "Never mind--you go on without me. She would not let him come in with her, but told him to run off as quickly as he could, and perhaps after all, he would not be too late for the skating. But Leslie could not bear to leave her alone and in pain, so he decided to run home and fetch his Aunt.

    The Night Before Christmas (Rabbit Ears)

    When Mrs. Howard arrived at the cottage, you can think how surprised she was to find that Leslie's "poor old woman" was none other than Grandmamma Howard herself, who wishing to find out the real characters of her grandsons, had chosen to come in this disguise to the little village where they lived.

    You will easily guess which of the three boys Grandmamma chose to be her little companion. And oh! She always seemed to know exactly what a boy wanted, and still better, to give it to him. Walter and Stanley often felt terribly ashamed of the selfish manner in which they had behaved, and wished they were more like Leslie. But Grandmamma told them that it was "never too late to mend," and they took her advice, and I am quite sure that at the present moment if they were to meet a poor old woman in distress by the roadside, they would not pass her by, as they once did Grandmamma Howard.

    It was the week before Christmas, and the dolls In the toy-shop played together all night.


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