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Clement Moore The Night Before Christmas

Updated on September 1, 2013

Clement C Moore

Classic Christmas Poem

In 1822, Dr. Clement Moore, a professor of Languages and a clergyman, had promised he would write his daughter, Charity, a special Christmas poem. Moore who was from an old Dutch family, lived in New York City.

Moore had not found the time or inspiration to write the poem when he went out to do some shopping on Christmas Eve. As he walked through the wintery city he was inspired and wrote the complete Christmas poem within a few hours. He read to poem to Charity that night.

Moore maintains that the poem is completely original but there was some controversy at them time about a popular children's story, called The Children's Friend. That story was also about Santa Claus, he wore brown fur, flew in a sleigh driven by 1 reindeer and he carried a birch rod that he used to punish naughty children. The main similarity was the sleigh and reindeer, which Moore probably borrowed, but many of the other details were different.


The story became a family treasure, read every year at Christmastime. Moore had no intention of ever publishing it, it was just a story for his beloved daughter. Charity loved the poem and shared it with a friend, Harriet Butler, this friend shared it with her Sunday school class. Butler also sent the piece to the Troy Sentinel newspaper.

The newspaper published the poem first in 1823 and it soon became appearing in more and more periodicals at Christmastime. However, Moore was no listed as author, it was attributed to Anonymous. At first Moore didn't even know that the poem wasn't being published. Once he did he hesitated to come forward, due to his professional reputation. But he did step forward in 1837 and claimed ownership.

The poem continued to be popular and in 1863 famous cartoonist Thomas Nast illustrated the story when the poem was published in book form. The drawings helped make the poem even more popular and popularized hte American idea of Santa Claus.

Santa with Goat

Influence of Story

Before the poem took hold in the popular imagination, there was not a generally accepted ideal of the appearance of Santa Claus. Each writer and illustrator had their own conception of Santa Claus. He could wear brown, red, green or any color really. Santa transported the gifts with horses, goats or many different ways. He also didn't necessarily come on Christmas Eve.

After The Night Before Christmas was published, Santa would always come on Christmas Eve, always wore red, was fat and jolly and used a sleigh with 8 reindeer. That became the norm around the world, not bad for a poem Moore wrote in a couple of hours as a present.

Popular Image of Santa Due to Moore


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