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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Published: December 24, 2013

4 Responses to “The Christmas Hit That Almost Wasn't”

  1. Thanks, Jen. I think the main point is that you will do your best work when you're being yourself. Don't force it. Don't overthink things.
    Happy Holidays!

    ScottFDecember 24, 2013 at 2:02 pm

  2. How do you write a direct copy with integity?

    * build a rapport with the client
    * research the company as if you care.
    * tell the truth or do not take the job
    * make your deadline
    * exceed expectations

    Well if you pay $299 for this article or $399 for this, then you will magically sell copy.

    Dangle the basic info until, the prospect is dry. What is the formula for writing copy? 0h, you never said! You figure.

    jindexDecember 24, 2013 at 9:39 pm

  3. Hey Jen, I just wanted you to know that I think that your contributions this week are brilliant! I am truly inspired. I can hardly wait for the rest of your posts this week.

    Joe ReynoldsDecember 24, 2013 at 10:00 pm

  4. Just got around to reading this post, Jen - and thanks for an interesting little tidbit. Good lesson here also. But I did learn something I didn't know before!

    LydiaMDecember 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm


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