Night Before Christmas aka A Visit From Saint Nicholas

A tradition in our family has been to read The Night Before Christmas aka A Visit from Saint Nicholas as a bedtime story in the days leading up to Christmas. We had several versions with my grandmother’s favorite being the one she received as a child with very art deco illustrations by Fern Bisel Peat. This copy still has the stress markings for my grandmother’s recitation of the poem at Newport #4 as a child in a one-room school. She used to trace the illustrations and color them. I miraculously found a reprint of this copy. You can find copies of the original and

Our Versions of the Night Before Christmas
Our Versions of the Night Before Christmasthe reprint edition around the web. This auction website that has clearly trashed a book to sell the pages as prints, has half the images if you want to see some of the other images.

Where Was it Written?

But the version I loved the best was set in the 1820s and featured a paragraph on the verso about a party in Moore’s neighbor every year. I decided to set out and discover if this “Party” was still being held. From the wording I assumed that there was a Clement C. Moore house museum, but that was never the case. I found that among the many disagreements over the creation of this poem is exactly where the poem was written. Was it written in Moore’s Chelsea home or on in Brooklyn at a home where the Moore family had traditionally gathered for Christmas? Neither site was ever a museum. The Moore Manor House (part of his estate that eventually formed the core of the Chelsea neighborhood) was torn down in 1937 as part of a subway building project. The Brooklyn house that was an alternative location was reported as a family home when the last current condition mention I could find was made in the New York Times in the Dec. 25, 1948 issue.

Possible Parties? Reading Celebrations

Santa with my Great-Grandmother's emphasis marks
Santa with my Great-Grandmother’s emphasis marks

In a December 24, 1930 article, the New York Times puts the location of Moore’s Chelsea house (originally much of the neighborhood was a Moore family estate named Chelsea) as close to London Terrace Gardens (an apartment complex) at 9th Avenue and 23th Street.  The address of the Moore Manor House being located in block bounded by 9th and 10th Avenues and 22nd and 23rd Streets. Apparently for years there was a tradition to read the poem in a ceremony there at London Terrace Gardens (an apartment complex located within the original block after the Moore Manor House was demolished), although I was unable to find reference to when this tradition started or stopped. Today Clement Moore Park is located at 10th Avenue and 22nd Street in Chelsea and was named after Moore in 1969. Although I was unable to confirm and the park itself lists no upcoming events on its website calender, I did find an online reference to an annual celebration including the reading being held in the park the last Sunday before Christmas, but I was unable to confirm it, so perhaps the celebration is continuing in a slightly different location. The Brooklyn house is or was (I wasn’t able to determine if it still stands) at 82-02 Broadway, Elmhurst, Queens. A ceremony was also held there reading the poem according a NYT article from Dec. 25, 1948, but I have no reference to how long this rival celebration lasted.

Annual Clement Clarke Moore Festival

However, the oldest ongoing celebration of Moore and his Christmas creation poem is the one at the Church of the Intercession (550 West 155th Street, Manhattan, New York). Originally called “The Festival of Lights,” it was started in 1911 and is now called its annual Clement Clarke Moore Festival. They claim it as “the oldest continuing

Party in His Neighborhood
Party in His Neighborhood

Christmas tradition in New York.” It takes place on the Sunday before Christmas at 4pm. After a service which includes the reading of the famous poem, attendees adjourn to the connecting Trinity Church Cemetery where the graves of both Moore and to that of Alfred Tennyson Dickens, the sixth child of Christmas Carol author, Charles Dickens (Alfred had been on a lecture tour of various events being held in honor of the 1912 centennial of his father’s birth, was suddenly taken ill in his New York City hotel room and quickly died and somewhat surprisingly was buried in New York rather than being returned to England or Australia) are visited and decorated.

LeVar Burton Reads Night Before Christmas

In honor of Christmas, Reading Rainbow is sharing LeVar Burton reading “A Visit From Saint Nicholas”:

Learn More

Digital historic copies of “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” aka “The Night Before Christmas”

Debate Answered about if Moore truly wrote “The Night Before Christmas.”

Clement Moore Park

Find more in articles (in chronological order):

Dr. Moore’s Grave Visited by Children (1930, December 25) The New York Times, p.2.

1,000 Pay Homage to Christmas Poet (1935, December 25) The New York Times, p. 20.

400 Place Wreath on Dr. Moore’s Grave: Children Join in Reading Famous Poem (1948, December 25) The New York Times, p.8.

Moore Homestead Site, Relic of the Poet, Is Ordered Sold By the Board of of Estimate (1950, September 15) The New York Times. p. 22.

Sarah S. Uthoff is main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation.Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on FacebookTwitterGoogle+,LinkedIn, and She is currently acting President of the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy and Research Association. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.


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Sarah Uthoff - Trundlebed Tales

Sarah S. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many times at the Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. She is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales fighting to bring the History, Mystery, Magic, and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. How can you help? Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, look at her photos, and find her on Facebook , Twitter , Google+, LinkedIn , SlideShare, and . Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and former director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.

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