The Night Before Christmas, or a Visit of St. Nicholas — Still On The Shelf
Here’s another in my Still on the Shelf series, where I tell you, book by blessed book, why I periodically run a dust rag across them, pull them off the shelf, and open them up to read.
A lifetime of reading has left me with a sizable number of books. Throughout the years I’ve donated them for tax deductions and traded them for credit by the carload. But for all the trimming and weeding my collection has undergone these past decades, the ones remaining on the shelves are there for a reason: they’ve withstood the test of time. Although I’m more inclined to pick up my Kindle these days, there are still plenty of books on my shelves, and The Night Before Christmas is one of them. I pull it off the shelf often this time of year.
The Night Before Christmas Or a Visit of St. Nicholas: an Antique Reproduction
by Clement Clarke Moore (author); William Roger Snow (illustrator), Russell Barber (introduction)
Publisher: Philomel Books
Do we really need another published version of this poem?
How many versions have been illustrated and put into book form since it was first published?
How many? Lots and lots and lots.
But in my opinion, not enough. There’s always, always, always room for more. I personally own just a few, but this edition is my favorite.
A Visit of St. Nicholas is more commonly known these days as The Night Before Christmas, after the first line of the poem. Clement Clarke Moore wrote it for his immediate family and had no intention of publishing it, but it was anonymously sent to a newspaper without Moore’s knowledge. It first appeared in the December 23, 1823, issue of the Troy Sentinel in upstate New York.
Orville Holley, editor of the Troy Sentinel, wrote:
We know not to whom we are indebted for the following description of that unwearied patron of music — that homely and delightful personage of parental kindness, Santa Claus, his costumes, and his equipage, as he goes about visiting the firesides of this happy land, laden with Christmas bounties; but from whomsoever it may have come, we give thanks for it. There is, to our apprehension, a spirit of cordial goodness in it, a playfulness of fancy and a benevolent alacrity to enter into the feelings and promote the simple pleasures of children which are altogether charming.
We hope our little patrons, both lads and lassies, will accept it as a proof of our unfeigned good will towards them — as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a Merry Christmas; that they may long retain their beautiful relish for those unbought homebred joys which derive their flavor from filial piety and fraternal love, and which they may be assured are the least alloyed that time can furnish them; and that they may never part with that simplicity of character which is their own fairest ornament and for the sake of which they have been pronounced by Authority which none can gainsay, types of such of us as shall inherit the kingdom of heaven.
Clement Clarke Moore included it in an anthology of his poems published in 1844, leading many to believe he was indeed the true author of the poem.
However, scholars have questioned and debated the authorship of the poem since it was first published.
Maybe he wrote it, maybe he didn’t. At this point, I can tell you I’m only in it for the coziness, the sugarplums, the reindeer, and the magic of St. Nicholas — no matter who wrote it.
You can read the entire poem on the Poetry Foundation website if you’d like a refresher.
The book that’s Still On The Shelf in my study is my favorite version and is a reproduction of an antique book published around 1870. There are approximately 17 full-color stone lithographs, with the text of the poem appearing on four pages. While this does make it good for reading aloud, it’s also a treat for us big kids who know the poem by heart and want to look at the pictures without disrupting the flow of words. The charming lithographs evoke a simpler, innocent time when magical things occurred frequently but still inspired awe…when we believed.
I’ve loved this poem ever since I remember there being a Christmas. When I was five or six, my grandparents gifted me a Night Before Christmas coloring book. I was mesmerized by it. I spent hours lying on the floor, coloring away happily and memorizing the poem, inhaling the heady scent of crayons. This book brings back those enchanted days for me, and I’ll treasure that for many, many years to come.
And yep, you guessed it — that’s why it’s Still On The Shelf.
If you’d like to be a kid again for a little while or know a kid who’d enjoy some free downloadable coloring pages from the poem, there are some cool pages at Supercoloring(dot)com.
And just as there are scores of The Night Before Christmas books out there, you can find tons of readings on the internet. Here’s my current favorite, read by Prince Charles (he’s really good at it!), the Duchess of Cornwall, and others, including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Daniel Craig, and Tom Hardy. (It was produced last year to raise funds and awareness for the Actors’ Benevolent Fund.)
With that, I’ll close by bidding you a very
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
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