Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Night Before

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It’s Christmas Eve, time to put the feet up, bum down, watch some Netflix, unless you’re getting ready for family coming over.

Pondering what to post for Christmas Eve, I started to think about the poem The Night Before Christmas.

Everyone knows the opening words:
Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' 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
The title is actually "A Visit from St. Nicholas" but today it is better known as "The Night Before Christmas”. It was originally published anonymously in 1823 in a Troy, New York, newspaper, The Sentinel. In the coming years, as the poem's popularity grew, several writers would claim to be its author, including Clement Clarke Moore, a classics professor, writer, and friend of author Washington Irving. Moore published his own version of the poem, said to have been inspired by a Christmas shopping trip years earlier, in 1844. It was said that a friend of Moore’s had sent the poem to The Sentinel in 1823. 


The poemn is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. It has also had a massive impact on the history of Christmas gift-giving. Before the poem gained wide popularity, American ideas had varied considerably about Saint Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors. 

According to Wkipedia:
Moore originated many of the features that are still associated with Santa Claus today while borrowing other aspects, such as the use of reindeer.

Moore's conception of Saint Nicholas was borrowed from his friend Washington Irving, but Moore portrayed his "jolly old elf" as arriving on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day. At the time that Moore wrote the poem, Christmas Day was overtaking New Year's Day as the preferred genteel family holiday of the season, but some Protestants viewed Christmas as the result of "Catholic ignorance and deception” and still had reservations. By having Saint Nicholas arrive the night before, Moore "deftly shifted the focus away from Christmas Day with its still-problematic religious associations." As a result, "New Yorkers embraced Moore's child-centered version of Christmas as if they had been doing it all their lives."

A Visit from St. Nicholas

Clement Carke 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 lustre 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, DONNER 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!
But enough of that, my purpose today is to give you some alternate versions of the poem . . .
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A version for bikers:

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the pad,
There was nada happenin', now thats pretty bad.
The woodstove was hung up in that stocking routine,
In hopes that the Fat Boy would soon make the scene.

With our stomachs packed with tacos and beer,
My girl and I crashed on the couch for some cheer.
When out in the yard there arose such a racket,
I ran for the door and pulled on my jacket.

I saw a large bro' on a '56 Pan
Wearin' black leathers, a cap, and boots (cool biker, man).
He hauled up the bars on that bikeful of sacks,
And that Pan hit the roof like it was running on tracks.

I couldn't help gawking, the old guy had class.
But I had to go in -- I was freezing my ass.
Down through the stovepipe he fell with a crash,
And out of the stove he came dragging his stash.

With a smile and some glee he passed out the loot,
A new jacket for her and some parts for my scoot.
He patted her fanny and shook my right hand,
Spun on his heel and up the stovepipe he ran.

From up on the roof came a great deal of thunder,
As that massive V-twin ripped the silence asunder.
With beard in the wind, he roared off in the night,
Shouting, "Have a cool Yule, and to all a good ride!"
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A version for lawyers . . .

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter "the House") a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse. 

A variety of foot apparel, e.g. stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St. Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter "Claus") would arrive at sometime thereafter. 

The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House, were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e. dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams. 

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as "I"), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the parts of the second part (hereinafter "Mamma"), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep. (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g. kerchief and cap.) 

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e. the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance. The party of the first part did immediately rushed to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance. 

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter the "Vehicle") being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer. The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus. 

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder and Blitzen (hereinafter the "Deer"). (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named Rudolph may have been involved.) 

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature. 

Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney. 

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items. He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations. 

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute "gifts" to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.) Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as "lookouts." Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination. 

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: "Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!" or words to that effect. 
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A Texas version . . .

'Twas the night before Christmas, in Texas, you know. 
Way out on the prairie, without any snow. 
Asleep in their cabin, were Buddy and Sue, 
A dreamin' of Christmas, like me and you. 

Not stockings, but boots, at the foot of their bed, 
For this was Texas, what more need be said, 
When all of a sudden, from out of the still night, 
There came such a ruckus, it gave me a fright. 

And I saw 'cross the prairie, like a shot from a gun, 
A loaded up buckboard, come on at a run, 
The driver was "Geein" and "Hawin", with a will, 
The horses (not reindeer) he drove with such skill. 

"Come on there Buck, Poncho, & Prince, to the right, 
There'll be plenty of travelin' for you all tonight." 
The driver in Levi's and a shirt that was red, 
Had a ten-gallon Stetson on top of his head. 

As he stepped from the buckboard, he was really a sight, 
With his beard and moustache, so curly and white. 
As he burst in the cabin, the children awoke, 
And were so astonished, that neither one spoke. 

And he filled up their boots with such presents galore, 
That neither could think of a single thing more. 
When Buddy recovered the use of his jaws, 
He asked in a whisper, "Are you really Santa Claus?" 

"Am I the real Santa? Well, what do you think?" 
And he smiled as he gave a mysterious wink. 
Then he leaped in his buckboard, and called back in his drawl, 
"To all the children in Texas, Merry Christmas, You-all" 
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And a final version . . .

I sit at my laptop, it’s Christmas almost,
As I work to finish my Christmas Eve post
To the readers for whom these items I write:
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Byte!


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