Christmas Clement Clarke Moore Podcast TTT Poets

Season 2 Episode 61: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Welcome to Tea Toast & Trivia.

Thank you for listening in.

I am you host, Rebecca Budd, and I am looking forward to sharing this moment with you.

Clement Clarke Moore, born July 15, 1799, was a writer and American Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature, Divinity and Biblical Learning at the General Theological Seminary of the Protestant Episcopal Church, in New York City.   Clement Moore had strong ties to the seminary for I understand that it was his generosity that led him to donate land, which was his private apple orchard, upon which the seminary was built.  The Seminary remains on the same parcel of land, which is located at Ninth Avenue between 20th and 21st streets, in an area known as Chelsea Square

Clement Moore became a wealthy man through the ownership of the estate “Chelsea,” an inheritance he received from the passing of his mother and grandfather.   Fast forward to present day, the “Chelsea” area is located on the West Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, between 14th Street to the south, the Hudson River and West Street to the west and Sixth Avenue to the east, with its northern boundary variously described as near the upper 20s or 34th Street.

Clement Moore accomplished a great deal in his lifetime.  He was a writer and a poet, a professor and scholar. He served twice in the position of President of Columbia College (now Columbia University) and served as a board member on the New York Institution for the Blind.

But what he is most known for is how he changed the way we see Christmas.

He called the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It was published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in 1823.  He had second thoughts in 1837 when eventually he told everyone that he had penned the poem.  Many believe that it is the most well-known and beloved poem written by an American poet.  We read it every Christmas, most generally on Christmas Eve, and then reflect on Christmases past when we were young and heard the familiar words read by our parents and grandparents.  Santa and the tradition of Christmas gift-giving was transformed by this poem

Clement Moore published several academic works, including A Compendious Lexicon of the Hebrew Language (Collins & Perkins, 1809), but “A Visit from St. Nicholas” more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” and “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” captured the hearts of children young and old.

Please join me in reading, A Visit form St. Nicholas AKA ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
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 a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
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 pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on 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 bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

'Twas the Night Before Christmas Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

By Rebecca Budd

Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

32 replies on “Season 2 Episode 61: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Rebecca, I loved reading about the background of Clement Clarke Moore and hearing your masterful reciting of his famous poem!

(It was also nice seeing what the borders are of Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, which I would walk through every day to and from work because my PATH train stop was within those borders. I might have even worked the night before Christmas a few times… 🙂 )

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Don asked me whether I wanted to include the positioning of the neighborhood because it seemed to be central to the background story. You have confirmed that it was the right decision. And now I see you walking those streets adding to the overarching story that continues decades after the passing of the creator. Just this morning, I read the famous Christmas letter to Santa sent to The Sun in 1897 , and the response by Francis Pharcellus Church, who had been a war correspondent during the American Civil War. These words inspired me this morning: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exits as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” I enjoy our conversations, Dave – so many more waiting for us in 2021.

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Thank you for your encouraging comments, Tim – very very much appreciated. I have always wanted to know the background story of this poem and was surprised that it came from a source that I would never have thought possible. It was a reminder to me not to pigeonhole people, but rather see them as people who have a vibrant story to tell. Merry Christmas!!!🎁 Looking forward to more stories in 2021!!!

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A truly well done recital, dear Rebecca, and a courageous reciter you are indeed, for you have read the longest single verse poem of 55 lines ever, I believe, in the English language of American idiom. The only other poem longer than Clement Clarke Moore’s ever famous ”Twas the Night Before Christmas” was none other than the other ever famous American poet, Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven” which is 18 verses long, being one of my favourites of his, as is the author Poe with his sad short life.
Tho I must admit having enjoyed reading and reciting Clarke Moore’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas , more times than I can remember. It and some naughty boys’ versions of it, as a very young school trickster, a very, very long memorable time ago.
Merry Christmas! to you and Don, Rebecca, and to all of your many and varied blog followers. And Hopefully an eventual normal New Year of 2021… !

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You are the best support and encouragement, Jean-Jacques. I have learned the hard way that poetry needs breath control, much like singing. I find that if I am too exuberant at the beginning of the phase I run out of breath by the end….. then must take a huge gulp. I just found Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” – I can see why this poem is one of your favourites. It would be a courageous feat to recite this one!! All the very best of this festive season to you and Mariann. Merry Christmas. And soon we will be off on new adventures in 2021!

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A delightful reading to brighten the gloomiest, cold days of December! St. Nicholas himself is an interesting figure to research. Though neither of them were perfect, like we ourselves, they’ve left us rich traditions imbued with love of family through acts of kindness which neither Scrooge nor cultural ostracism can destroy. “Merry Christmas to all…” 🎄🎅🏻☃️❄️

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I have often wondered how St. Nicholas, who was born during the third century in the village of Patara in Asia Minor, could become a jolly elf in red with a sleigh and reindeer. Now you have given me another most excellent research project, Mary Jo. How well said – “they’ve left us rich traditions….”. Here is a question that I would love to discuss with you: Is it possible to eliminate kindness? Is there a mechanism within humanity that will always seek a kind path? When I asked the question in a google search – it seems that kindness is in the ascendency, even in the most difficult times. Hmmmm another idea to consider as we enter 2021.

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Dear Rebecca, it’s so easy to forget those wonderful exemplars of our childhood who inculcated kindness into our being. When kindness becomes like breathing we like to think we have chosen it, and indeed sometimes that is the case. Whether it’s a natural virtue, genetically speaking, or taught to us by example, the result is the same. Being imperfect yet wonderfully made, we are a mixed bag of virtue and vice. I think Shakespeare had it wrong when he wrote, “The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.” Or at least, the opposite can be true as well. Take Clement Moore, he owned slaves. St. Nicholas, a bishop at the Council of Nicea, in a fit of anger slapped the priest Arius. But also, their kindnesses have outlived these and we the happy recipients of those instead.

St. Paul says we can chose to clothe ourselves “with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” And that’s how I humbly answer your questions. Sinterklaas is that image human kindness, and (spoiler alert) parents can impersonate this superiority of kindness once a year. All year long we can practice this simple form of love, since “love covers a multitude of sin.” Lots of that heading your way, love that is! 🙂

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Dear Mary Jo – thank you for your profound and thoughtful comments on kindness. It seems that we want to remember kindness above all other characteristics. I was surprised that Clement Moore opposed the abolition of slavery, something that is never thought of when we read ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. I especially appreciated your thought “we are a mixed bag of virtue and vice.” Consider those individuals who we hold in high esteem for their good deeds and legacies – household names that symbolize peace, compassion and noble acts. They had flaws which illustrates your idea of “mixed bag of virtue and vice.” Yet, we seem to forget the flaws and look towards the ideal, especially with the passing of time. A curious notion that had me look into the reasons for this. Here is what I found:

“Our most basic motivation is to strive for survival, well-being and happiness. Being treated by others with cruelty, indifference or insensitivity goes directly against this basic wish. So, we want others to treat us with kindness and this is common to all humans.”

One of my favourite quotes is by Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe: “For he that does good, having the unlimited power to do evil, deserves praise not only for the good which he performs, but for the evil which he forbears.” I agree Mary Jo, kindness is a choice which opens to the wonderful possibility that “kindness becomes like breathing.”

I love our conversations. Thank you!!!! Merry Christmas!!!

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Another wonderful podcast, Rebecca. I enjoyed learning about Clement Moore. I do know this poem, Twas the Night Before Christmas, but it isn’t as well know here as it obviously is in the USA and Canada. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is our big Christmas story. I loved your reading of it.

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We watched A Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve and on Christmas Day. I still cry at the end. By the way, a dear blogger friend Liz Humphrey posted that her husband Stephen had read A Christmas Carol . Stephen has a brilliant voice perfect for reading A Christmas Carol. I have enjoyed listening to him over this festive season.

I am delighted that we have connected in 2020, a year that will be long remembered. Looking forward to the journey in 2021 – together!!!

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That was lovely, Rebecca. Thank you for this classic Christmas moment.
LOL, I used to make a party game of this story. Players were asked to list various things, like #1, a holiday, #14 a body part, #20 a location.
Those were then inserted into the corresponding numbered spot on the story (which of course the players had not seen). Some of them were hysterically funny.
Have a beautiful last week of this year. Hugs on the wing.

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OMG! Rebecca, I’ve said it before, you are amazing at reciting/reading.
You are my fave, and the only other person I can think of, who is special at this is, Jeremy Irons.
The history herein, and the spirit is a wonderful thing.
Thank you! {{{HUGS}}}

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Ah – Jeremy Irons has a remarkable voice and his poetry recitation is brilliant. Check out Daffodils by William Wordsworth, read by Jeremy Irons There is a wonderful simplicity in his phrasing and his ability to bring us into a moment of reflection in the ending lines is truly amazing. I’m so glad that you enjoyed listening to “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” Hugs and more hugs!

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Dear Rebecca,
thank you very much for introducing us to Clement Clarke Moore and his Christmas poem. We have never heard about him and didn’t know his Christmas poem. We really enjoyed this poem and especially as you read it.
Thank you very much 🙏 🙏 🙏 🙏
With lots of big hugs 🤗 🤗 and love 😘
The Fab Four of Cley
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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I’m delighted that you enjoyed this poem, which keeps coming back year and year in many iterations on our side of the world. (The 2020 iterations related to Covid and the pandemic.) But this is the first time that I looked back into the poem’s history. I would never have guessed that a Professor of Oriental and Greek Literature would have written such a poem. I understand that he wrote it for his children and read it for the first time on Christmas Even 1822. Then I read somewhere else that he was devoted to his wife, Catherine Elizabeth Taylor. During their courtship he would send her poems. It is heartening to know that there is a romantic in all of us! Sending many hugs land love back across the ocean to my dear friends, The Fab Four of Cley!

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Dear Rebecca
Thank you for giving us all these background infos. Our dear Master just reads a book about Arctic exploration around the same time when this poem was written. Even the rough sailors were quite romantic at the beginning of the 19th c. They did write poems as well and were painting romantic pictures. It seems to be that we kind of got cooler since then.
Wishing you a wonderful week. We have quite some wind and rain and just above freezing – unfortunately no snow.
Love & hugs
The Fab Four of Cley
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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Thank you for this information. It explains the poems in public domain that I have been reading lately. They are full of romantic nuances. For example: The poem, Never Enough of Living by Léonie Adams written in 1925.

Never, my heart, is there enough of living,
Since only in thee is loveliness so sweet pain;
Only for thee the willows will be giving
Their quiet fringes to the dreaming river;
Only for thee so the light grasses ever
Are hollowed by the print of windy feet….”

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