December 25, 1994 archive
The Night Before Christmas
This poem, now known and recognized as the perfect story about Christmas used in our modern times, was published in the newspaper the New York Sentinel, out of Troy, on December 23, 1823. Clement Clarke Moore (who lived from 1779 through 1863), printed the poem anonymously. The story has become a modern favorite and it’s been continuously in print since that time.
People have used calligraphy and written the poem on parchment, then decorated it and framed it as a gift for someone in their family, or a friend. We can do the same today on our computers, and it’s easy getting parchment-like paper from the office supply store. There are several types of fonts which can be used and even some that look like they were penned by a monk! You can try several versions of the poem and see what looks best to you, then test print it on regular paper.
Decorations can be added by hand or from the computer. Find a nice frame (an antique one looks good) and use a good matte to highlight the poem. You can often pick up inexpensive frames at a garage sale (chuck out the print if there’s one in there, and if you want to). If attention is paid to detail, this can be a thoughtful and handmade gift for someone to treasure for a long time. The entire poem is below, with additional thoughts for its use, at the end.
Visit From St. Nicholas/’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 down for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the 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 the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it 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 Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top 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 hand, 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 of 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 bowlful 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.”
This poem also looks great printed in a brown-colored font on that parchment-like paper, allowed to dry thoroughly (if using an inkjet printer), then used to wrap a small gift, such as jewelry. Use a copper-wired ribbon for a lovely touch and top off with a little pine cone accent.
The North Pole
There have been a lot of movies made and books written about Santa and the North Pole. He lives there and has a workshop staffed by elves and other Santa’s helpers. Every year at Christmas he and those 8 tiny reindeer take off to circle the globe and leave presents for good boys and girls.
Because it’s hard to reach and quite mysterious even today, the North Pole has been at the center of many myths and legends and fanciful stories. It’s reputation is earned, as because it’s so remote, we are all interested in what it’s really like up there. Entice Santa to stay for a few minutes at you house this Christmas, and perhaps he’ll fill you in… In any case, be sure and practice your Ho Ho Ho’s to get ready for the upcoming Christmas season.
Christmas In The Victorian Age
Victorian era buildings, decorations and even Christmastime festivities, activities and all things to do with Queen Victoria and her long reign, are still popular in the 21st century. Many Victorian houses are still around, especially in San Francisco, and most have been lovingly restored. Both pagan and Christian festivals occur in December and they have become mixed over the years. In pagan days gone by, evergreen branches, ivy, holly and mistletoe were often used, as they are today.
Christmas season plants had magical properties and heralded the arrival of Spring. Queen Victoria started her reign in 1837 and it lasted for many years. No one in Great Britain had heard of Christmas crackers or Santa before that time. Most workers kept on working at Christmas and there were no Christmas cards. Because of the industrial revolution and the wealth it brought, Christmas was changed forever. When Charles Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol in 1843, it encouraged rich Victorians to occasionally redistribute their wealth.
Because of the influx of this new money, middle class families during the Victorian period were able to celebrate two days of Christmas, which included Boxing Day. Working class people and servants of the rich opened boxes from their rich lords and ladies, and these might include unwanted (by the upper class) gifts or money. People who had left their villages and towns for work in London or other large cities, could return home by train to visit family at the holidays.
Scottish people like to postpone the celebrations so they can celebrate New Year and Christmas at about the same time. This is called Hogmanay style. Long after Victoria’s reign ended, Christmas Day finally became an official holiday in Scotland. During the last few decades, this also includes Boxing Day. When Victoria first ruled, children’s gifts were handmade and often costly, so were mostly reserved for the rich. Factories started to produce clockwork toys, books, dolls and games at prices which even the low income populace could afford, so they rose in popularity as Christmas presents.
In the poorest child’s stocking there would often be a few nuts, or possibly an apple and an orange. Stockings hung by the chimney became popular about 1870. Perhaps someone was hanging their socks up to dry and parents popped a few presents in them. Father Christmas and Santa Claus are two separate people (or myths depending on your POV). Father Christmas was originally dressed in green and part of the midwinter festival. Dutch settlers brought their version of Santa Claus to America first, in the seventeenth century, and then it migrated back over to the U.K.
Santa started to be popular in Britain during Victoria’s reign, which included the 1870s. He brought his sleigh and reindeer along with him and gave out gifts to children. Turkeys were introduced to Britain from America, way before Victoria reigned. Most were quite expensive and unaffordable except for a few wealthier people. Roast beef, goose and rabbit were eaten by a lot of people in Victoria’s time. Victoria and her family ate roast swan and roast beef. Most folks at the end of the nineteenth century, ate turkey.
Turkeys were often walked to London (an 80 mile stretch) wearing leather boots, from Norfolk farms. There, they enjoyed their own sort of Christmas feast, until they became someone else’s. Roland Hill introduced the Penny Post to Britain in 1840. One penny affixed to a letter or postcard would send the missive anywhere in Britain. This made it easy for the tradition of sending Christmas cards much simpler, and it gained a rapid foothold. Henry Cole printed up a lot of cards, which sold for a shilling, in his London shop, in 1843. Thus, for a penny and a shilling you could send your Christmas greeting to far flung friends and family. Postage costs actually went down to a half penny when railways helped with transport.
Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was from Germany. He took a Christmas tree from his native land to Windsor Castle in the 1840s. Crackers used on British Christmas dinner tables started as candy in twisted colored paper. A London sweet maker used this for wrapping in 1846. He then added little love notes, small toys, and paper hats, along with a cracker which banged with a pop when you pulled on both ends. The tradition is to hold one end then have your neighbor pull on the other, then so on as you go around the table.
Singers of carols liked to walk around towns and visit houses while they sang and played music for the new carols. Some of the most popular carols which were written in that era, are: O Come All Ye Faithful (1843), See Amid The Winters Snow (1851), Once In Royal David’s City (1848), and Away In A Manger (1883). There have been many reproductions of Victorian themes and decorations and cards, as the era is still incredibly popular today. Antiques which are real Victorian are highly prized collectibles, and Christmas decorations and other items are valued and often displayed during that time of year.