A father settles into bed, his children already snug and asleep, dreaming of dancing sugar plums. Just as he and his wife get under the covers, he hears a noise, runs to the window, and opens the shutters. Startle turns to delight when he spots a miniature sleigh led by eight reindeer, its driver a lively, little old man. Surely, he wonders aloud, now convinced he knows the whistling charioteer, “he must be St. Nick.”
The opening scene from Clement Clarke Moore’s poem A Visit From St. Nicholas or, as it’s also called, ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, may have been written in 1822, here in New York City in what is now the High Line Hotel, but it has a universal setting. Moore, who at first anonymously published the piece in 1823, conveys a strong sense of home, of a family happily gathered at Christmas Eve. There’s snow. There are toys. And there is much excitement when a rosy-cheeked St. Nick enters the house through the chimney, dressed in fur.
What’s remarkable about A Visit From St. Nicholas is how well it holds up over the years. Like great music, it improves with familiarity. And the author’s lyrical rhymes continue to be read year after year, comforting generations of listeners, welcoming the holiday season. “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”