6 Things You Didn’t Know About “The Night Before Christmas”

Controversy, reindeer name changes—the famous feel-good poem has a past!

By Celadon Staff

“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”

Originally a simple poem written by biblical scholar and professor, Clement Clarke Moore for his children in 1822, “The Night Before Christmas” is the most well-recognized, iconic holiday poem in American pop culture. Here, a few things that you may not know about it—including a long-standing controversy questioning authorship.

1. After Moore wrote the poem he named “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” he read it to his children on Christmas Eve. A friend visiting from upstate New York was so impressed, she sent it to a newspaper editor (without permission) who published it the following year.

2. The poem first appeared uncredited in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823.

3. Donner and Blitzen were originally named Dunder and Blixem. Donner was actually Dunder’s second name change—he was also called Donder.

4. First attributed to Moore in 1837, he didn’t publicly claim authorship of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” until 1844 when he included it in a book of poetry.

5. An original copy of the poem Moore wrote and signed for an acquaintance in 1860 sold for $280,000 to a Manhattan CEO in 2006 who later read it to guests—in a protective plastic sleeve—at his holiday party.

6. The family of Major Henry Livingston, Jr., who died in 1828, claimed he was the real author of “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” though they had no physical evidence. For decades the debate has ebbed and flowed—most scholars believe Moore is the author, but some don’t, like Vassar professor Don Foster who wrote a book in 2000 claiming it was Livingston, after all, who penned the Christmas classic.

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