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2015-12-17

Bringing Christmas alive - 293 years later

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

"T'was the night before Christmas, when all through the library, not a creature was ..."
Who would have thought a poem written in 1822 as a holiday gift to a beloved daughter would still be considered a Christmas classic 293 years later.
During the fall of 1822, Dr. Clement Clarke Moore responded to a request from his daughter, Charity, for a Christmas story. Because she suffered from tuberculosis, the child found playing with toys too tiring. For months, Moore pondered over the precise words and images for this most important request.
A "'courser' of eight tiny reindeer" emerged after Moore hitched up a team of his own horses. After all, horses cannot easily travel over snow. Rising up a chimney after "laying his finger aside of his nose" stemmed from a Dutch belief that that gesture would deliver one magically through a keyhole or down a chimney.
Moore took his reindeer's names from the goats of Sinter Klaas, who each year delivers oranges to good Dutch children.
Recalling an employee of his father in Manhattan, Moore created an image of Santa Claus as "chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf" who "smoked a stub of a pipe." Pulling a sleigh through the snow, that employee, Jan Duyckinck, also delivered wood to poor children to help them stay warm.
Children often found sugar plums - aka prunes - in their stockings as a special treat, giving rise to "The children were nestled all snug in their beds while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads."
Although Moore never intended to publish his poem, a friend sent it to the New York Times and his Christmas treat was published on Dec. 23, 1823.
And now, that magical epic poem of Christmas comes to Bandera.
Jon Kindred, master storyteller and consummate performer, will visit the Bandera County Public Library at 10 am, Saturday, Dec. 19, to present Clement Clark Moore's poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas." The poem, however, is often better known by its first line "T'was the Night before Christmas ..."
Kindred will keep little ones spellbound with his rendition of what some describe as the best-known verse in the English language. Its playful meter and jolly action forever changed how the nation celebrated the Christmas holiday - and gave rise to America's popular vision of Santa Claus.
Kindred will also offer an animated reading of the Dr. Seuss favorite, "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," along with a bit of Dickens and perhaps some verses by James Whitcomb Riley.
Kindred returns to the library at 10 am, Tuesday, Dec. 22, and again reads an assortment of Christmas stories guaranteed to put even Ebenezer Scrooge into the Christmas spirit.
Mark calendars for both presentations while everyone awaits "The night before Christmas."
In the tradition of the season, Charity adored her father's "perfect poem" and soon recovered from tuberculosis.
(Source: "Charity's Gift" by Jane Eppinga, as published in the 2001 "Chicken Soup for the Soul Christmas Treasury."