For American Christians, the scripture account of the birth of Jesus is easily the central Christmas story recalled and shared each year. But there is little doubt that next in line to grab the attenion and feed the excitement of children, parents and grandparents as December 25th draws near is Clement C. Moore's story, The Night Before Christmas. In fact in The Poet of Christmas Eve , Moore's biographer claims without hesitation that The Night Before Christmas stands as " the most published, most read, most memorized, and most collected book in all of Christmas literature." Even in current times, should a vote be taken for the honored spot of America's second favorite Chrstmas story, the top contender would most likely be The Night Before Christmas. Still the question remains why is this simple, short, poetic tale a true American classic.
It Was Written for a Reason.
According to legend, Clement C. Moore first wrote the poem as a Christmas gift for his children. A professor and man of letters, Moore wrote on a variety of academic subjects but also enjoyed penning poems meant for the sole purpose of entertaining his family of six children. On Christmas Eve in 1822, as a Christmas present for his children, Moore read his recently completed poem - A Visit from St. Nicholas, later to be retitled The Night Before Christmas.
And that really should have been the end of it. According to Moore, he never intended the poem to leave the confines of his own home. It wasn't written for an audience any larger or more diverse than his own children gathered around the family fireplace. In writing The Night Before Christmas, Moore was free to ignore what literary critics might say and instead consider the toughest critics of all, his own young and imaginative children. This freedom permitted Moore to write from the heart.
Perhaps precisely for this reason the tone, the words, the mood and the story have a special qualtiy about them. As Moore focused totally on writing a Christmas story that his own children would enjoy hearing, he simultaeously created the kind of story that he would enjoy telling. The result was a Christmas story that joyously and reliably connects parents and children each time it is read.
As he set down the words of The Night Before Christmas, Clement C Moore was inadvertently laying down a sort of creative guideline that would be used by parents and children for decades to come. Moore's verse carried home images of flying reindeer, a sleigh full of toys, a lovable, bearded visitor, chimney entrances and exits and stockings hanging over the family fireplace. All have found their way into the pre-Christmas daydreams of children of all ages who have listened to Moore's poem.
With very little tweaking, the words of the story have remained the same for 190 years. What is different is the way children hear and understand The Night Before Christmas . That personal interpretation is new and different with each and every reading.
An Enduring Feeling
Clement C. Moore proved in The Night Before Christmas that what makes a story a classic sometimes has little to do with its length or its style. What keeps a story on bookshelves in houses across America and beyond is often as simple as the feelings it evokes. .
In The Night Before Christmas readers are wrapped in the warmth of a family settling in for the night. Along with the father in the story they are soon aroused by strange sounds and even stranger sights. But there is nothing frightening here because their surprsing visitor is armed only with gifts and good cheer.
Clement C. Moore prepared a perfect Christmas gift for his family. Moore gave himself, his wife and his children a to a chance to dwell on the joy and excitement of shared anticipation. Thanks to Clement C. Moore, parents and children across time can continue to experience that kind of family pleasure. Now that's a classic.
Published by Nora Beane
I am a former high school history teacher and Director of Religious Education with a total of 27 years of active experience as teacher and administrator. I am now a semi retired freelance writer. I have two... View profile
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