Local History: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Local History: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Uncle Sam isn’t the only white-haired cultural icon who calls Troy, NY “home.” Though the image of St. Nicholas had been associated with Christmas for over a millennium, the modern and American conception of Santa Claus was born almost entirely out of Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (more commonly referred to as “T’was the Night Before Christmas”). This beloved poem, which has been referred to as “arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American,” stands as another proud piece of Capital District history and culture.

On a snowy winter’s day in 1823, Clement Clarke Moore took a sleigh ride shopping trip and composed his now legendary work as a Christmas gift for his children. The man Moore described borrowed some of his features from the traditional image of St. Nicholas, such as his arrival in a sled driven by reindeer and placing toys and fruit in stockings, but also developed completely new and original aspects of the character, like his ability to slide down a chimney with the nod of his head and his trademark appearance being “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf”.

At the insistence of a friend, the piece was first published in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823. As a professor at the General Theological Seminary in New York, Moore feared having his name attached to a children’s poem and initially opted to publish the piece anonymously but the work was an instant hit and in years following received publication in papers across the country with no name attached. It wasn’t until 1837 that Moore was revealed to have written the piece and not until 1844 that he himself acknowledged his authorship, when he published it in a collection of his poems at his children’s request.

Among all of the outstanding contributions our area has made to our nation’s history and culture, “T’was the Night Before Christmas” stands as one of our most beloved. From all of us at Belmonte Builders, we’re wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night”