The Christmas Hit That Almost Wasn't
All over the world, it’s become a tradition to read a special poem on Christmas Eve. You can probably recite a good bit of it by heart:
“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse …”
But as famous as this poem is to us now … it almost wasn’t published at all. And when it was, the author wasn’t happy.
Jen Adams here, for the second day of our behind-the-scenes look at writers who’ve shaped modern Christmas traditions.
On December 23, 1823, a small newspaper in Troy, New York, published a whimsical poem called “A Visit From St. Nicholas.” It was a very popular piece and was frequently reprinted year after year by the local paper and many others around the country.
And the author? Anonymous!
But there were rumors …
Finally, in 1844, Clement Clarke Moore officially claimed authorship.
And he was not that happy about it.
You see, he’d originally written the piece for his children. Just something silly for them to enjoy … until a copy of the poem was submitted to the Troy paper by a friend.
Moore was embarrassed. He was a serious scholar, a professor of Greek and Oriental Literature, and a critic of Thomas Jefferson’s writings. And that silly little poem didn’t fit his serious personal image.
Yet the details in the poem were changing how Santa and his big night were perceived all over the world. It was the first time the reindeer were given names. It introduced Santa as a jolly old fellow with a pipe. And it gave us Santa’s signature send-off, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Eventually—but only under pressure from his nine children—Moore admitted it was his and arranged for it to be formally published as a stand-alone book.
It went on to become one of the most-read poems in the world—and is given credit in many literary circles as the best-known poem by an American author.
What can you take away from this story? Well, as you settle into your own Christmas Eve, remember to, first and foremost, take credit for your work! Be proud of what you do and claim it whenever you can.
Next, don’t be afraid to be “silly” or “creative” in your projects. When you’re thinking outside the box, you just might find your greatest success, as Moore discovered.
Finally, don’t be shy about sharing your writing with others. Sometimes, it’s hard to see the strengths of your work, but others can help you find it.
What other lessons can you see? Let me know in the comments, and then stay tuned for tomorrow’s tale of how one writer got a very special second chance, thanks to a Christmas tale.
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