Monday, December 24, 2018

'Twas the Night Before Christmas. . .

A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore

Thoughts on a Christmas reading tradition by Kristin

Reading the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore (more commonly known as ‘Twas the Night before Christmas,) has been a long-standing tradition in my husband’s family.  We continued the reading with our children, and for many years they sat listening raptly as visions of sugar-plums danced and the jolly old elf laid a finger aside of his nose.

Then the teenage years arrived.

The “children” still listened, although they weren’t completely enraptured as in earlier years.  My husband teaches physics, and is fully accustomed to using his lecture voice to reach the back seats in the room.  He really, really, really loves this Christmas tradition, and I’m sure he’ll continue it forever, as his parents and grandparents did.  But for a few years, the storytelling might be a little rocky.

Kid: "Eight reindeer on your roof? That's going to be some major roof repair!"
Physics Dad: "They're magical reindeer. They have mass but no weight. Now let me read the story!"
Kid: "Tiny reindeer? Have you seen reindeer? They're massive!"
Physics Dad: "You're seeing them from a distance. It's all a matter of perspective! But that just proves my point that they're magical, they can be massive but exert no normal force on the roof!"

Finally the laughter subsided and we were able to hear “Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN! on, COMET! on CUPID! on, DONNER and BLITZEN!”  The story’s familiar lines continued their ebb and flow, followed by the Nativity story.  This year too, you can be sure that round about nine o’clock on Christmas Eve in our house you will be able to hear…

'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!
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,

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