Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Twas The Night Before Christmas

It was on this day in 1823 that the holiday poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" was published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in New York. In recent years, there has been considerable debate as to the authorship.

According to legend, Clement Clarke Moore wrote his immortal poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," also known as "The Night Before Christmas," for his family on Christmas Eve 1822. He never intended that it be published, but a family friend, Miss Harriet Butler, learned of the poem sometime later from Moore's children. She copied it into her album, and submitted it to the editor of the Troy (New York) Sentinel where it made its first appearance in print on December 23, 1823.
Soon, the poem began to be reprinted in other newspapers, almanacs and magazines, with the first appearance in a book "The New York Book of Poetry in 1837". It was not until 1844, however, that Moore himself acknowledged authorship in a volume of his poetry entitled "Poems"published at the request of his children. One hundred and eighty years later it is the most-published, most-read, most-memorized and most-collected poem in all of Christmas literature. The poem is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today.

A Visit from St.  Nicholas
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, Donder and Blixen!
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 peddler 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!”

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House Inc., 1983)
A visit from St. Nicholas or Santa would not be complete unless a plate of cookies and a glass milk were left out for him on Christmas Eve.
Cook's notes:
Chocolate Crackled Cookies that even the grown-ups will like. Using Saigon cinnamon elevates the cookie recipe to a whole new level. The recipe called for the addition of Ancho Chile Pepper. I wasn't sure Santa or my neighbors would like the spice so I skipped it for this batch. But it would be interesting to try another time.   
Recipe from and makes about 2-1/2 dozen cookies.
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, divided
  • 1 tsp. cream
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tsp. Saigon cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp. Ancho Chile Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 stick of butter or 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Mix flour, cinnamon, Ancho chile pepper, salt and baking powder. Set aside. 
  • Melt 8 oz. of the chocolate with cream in microwave. I used high for 12 seconds, stirred and then did another 12 seconds or until melted. Chop in rest of chocolate into small pieces. 
  • Beat butter, sugars on medium until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla. mix well and add melted chocolate and beat until will mixed. Gradually add in flour on low speed until well combined. Stir in chopped pieces of chocolate.
  • Chill dough for 30 to 45 minutes. 
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
  • Flour hands and roll dough into balls about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Bake for about 8 minutes until cookies are set and slightly cracked on top. 

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