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Encyclopedia > The Night Before Christmas

The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas" from its first line, was first published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. Authorship was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore and the poem was included in an anthology of his works, but his connection with the verses has been questioned by some, although more proof links the poem to Moore than to any other party, including the private correspondence of the Sentinel editor. Henry Livingston, a New Yorker with Dutch roots, is the chief candidate for authorship if Moore did not write it.

An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., reprints the Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen" he adopted, rather than the earlier Dutch version from 1823, "Dunder and Blixem". (Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English.)

This poem is largely responsible for the contemporary jolly-old-fat-man depiction of Santa Claus. Previously, Santa Claus was often depicted as thinner and decidedly less jolly; he often disciplined children.

External links

  • Snopes article refuting Moore's authorship (http://www.snopes.com/holidays/christmas/donner.htm)
  • Foster, Donald. Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. New York: Henry Holt, 2000. ISBN 0-8050-6357-9 (pp. 221-275).
  • Text attributed to Livingston, at University of Toronto's Representative Poetry Online. (http://eir.library.utoronto.ca/rpo/display/poem1312.html)
  • Moore version online at Bartleby (http://www.bartleby.com/248/27.html)

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