‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

Rachel Kent

Blogger: Rachel Kent

So sorry my blog is late to post today! ‘Twas the night before my blog day last night and it slipped my mind! Things have been busy around here with our move. We are loving our new house.

I picked the classic book, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas to blog about today.  This is one of my favorites because my 6th Grade teacher had the entire class memorize the poem and recite it for our parents. I remember most of it! The one part that I always struggle with is the “As leaves before the wild hurricane fly” part. That doesn’t stick in my mind.

While the book is usually titled ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, it’s actually a poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. If you’d like to read it, here’s a link to the poem: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/171924

I think this poem is well-loved and now a classic because of the beautiful writing and also because it adds to the mystery and joy of Santa Claus. I was raised knowing that Santa was not “real,” but we still pretended he came anyway. We knew the story of St. Nicholas, and my parents played up Santa coming each year. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas builds the anticipation of Christmas and is a story about how a parent sees Santa coming in the middle of the night–so children everywhere are going to love it and parents are going to read it to their children to share the joy of the story of Santa with them.

I know many Christians who don’t bring Santa into the Christmas holiday at all because it distracts from the real meaning of Christmas, so they wouldn’t have a place for this poem at Christmas. How do you feel about it? 

I think I will follow in my parents’ footsteps and use Santa (St. Nicholas) as a way to teach my children to think of others at Christmas and everyday. I hope they pick up on the joy of giving!

What is your favorite Christmas poem?santa-claus-free-and-powerpoint-backgrounds-pictures-152012

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45 Comments

  • Great post, Rachel. I forget the same part of the poem that you do. When I rewrote Moore’s poem for my prairie-loving pals on a Little House forum, I might actually have left that part out, too. :)

    Our family observes both traditions, but as Christians, it’s important that our children know the true meaning of Christmas. We even sing Happy Birthday to Jesus before opening any presents Christmas morning.

    This past weekend, our church held their annual Christmas bazaar and tag sale. My girls spent the weeks leading up to the event, getting together clothes that no longer fit and toys they were too old for, and brought them to the tag sale. They actually helped work the bazaar this year (6 hours) with two of their friends that tagged along. In addition, they walked our neighborhood handing out flyers a few days beforehand. If I sound like a proud mom, I am.

    Do they have Christmas lists a mile long? Sure. But I also know how generous and loving they are growing up to be, so I feel they have a good balance between the two.

    Hope you have a blessed weekend.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      That is wonderful! I would be a proud mom, too. I hope Katie is willing to help out like that some day for a church event.

    • Christmas without Santa? That is one of the saddest things I have ever heard of.
      Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild

      Did you decide where the Christmas Tree goes in the new house?

      • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

        :) We don’t have our tree yet. I have an idealistic notion that I’ll be completely unpacked before we get it. I think I’m going to have to cave and get one this weekend. Then I’ll need to find the decorations…

  • I agree that Santa Claus can be a good way to introduce the spirit of generosity.

    Works for adults, too.

    Rather than a poem, I rather like a song I sort of re-wrote, dealing with St. Nick. I was a structural engineer, which may explain a few things.

    So…ahem…modest bow…

    “Up on the housetop, reindeer pause,
    oh, dear God, it’s Santa Claus!
    Landing in a sleigh with its runners bowed,
    way over our roof’s rated load.
    Ho, ho, ho,
    there the rafters go!
    Ho, ho, ho,
    look out below!
    Right through the housetop,
    quick, quick, quick!
    And through to the basement
    falls good St. Nick!”

    An idle mind’s a terrible thing, eh?

  • Lori says:

    My favorite Christmas poem is “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.

    When I was in high school, our Concert Choir, which I was a member of, had to memorize and sing the whole thing. It was one long song.

  • Micky Wolf says:

    Your post brings a smile, Rachel. Our family has always loved “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

    As parents, we emphasized the true meaning of Christmas, while including the perspective of St. Nick–or Santa. Our two are married now [no grand-babies yet] and they often share of their good memories of Christmas Eve church services, followed by cookies and milk before bed.

    While they enjoy receiving, it definitely brings gratitude and gladness to our hearts that they delight in giving of their time, talent, and resources to others.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      It will be fun to see the traditions carried on when the grandchildren do start arriving! :)

      We did cookies and milk, too. And a carrot for the reindeer.

  • I was raised with no fantasy and very little celebration. My children are too old now for me to do if differently, but if we could I’d do what your folks did. Make a clean delineation between fact and fantasy, but still allow the fun! My best friend in college quit believing in Jesus for a while because she was so devastated to find out Santa wasn’t real that she transferred that to everything else that wasn’t tangible. I don’t believe in “lying” to kids, but I DO think we should pretend with them!!

    • agree says:

      Agree! I used to “pray” (aka talk) to the toothfairy after I got a card from her under my pillow. Basic questions ensued and a yarn was spun. Years later I caught the “toothfairy” in the act. I was SO embarrassed. Thank goodness they didn’t do that with santa. Our presents were labeled “santa”/mom & dad. I have no idea what I’m going to do with my kids as regards santa and Christmas morning. But, as a takaway: if you don’t want to risk your child praying to fake stuff, don’t tell them about other all-seeing all-knowing figures, and perform “miracles” in their name.

    • Paula, I so agree! We always knew Santa was pretend and that Christmas was all about Jesus coming to earth for us, but there was always a gift for us under the tree from Santa and Mrs. Claus. And I have no problem with Christmas songs that don’t focus on the real meaning.

      We have a family in our church who told their son at age five or six that Santa wasn’t real and his immediate question was, “Is Jesus real?” Since then, he’s questioned everything about God and constantly asked them, “How do you know?”

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Wow! I wouldn’t have thought that stringing on a Santa myth could have such an effect on a person. That does make it very important to keep a clear line between reality and fun at Christmas. And we do all need to make it about Jesus!

    • AshleeW says:

      I agree with you 100%, Paula :) That’s how I was brought up, with that “clean delineation,” and it always surprises me how many people tell me how sad it was that we grew up without believing in Santa Claus! I watched my cousins, who believed 100% in Santa, become devastated and heartbroken when they found out he wasn’t real. I think that’s the TRUE sad thing. Whereas my sister and I still had a blast “pretending” to believe in him, while losing none of the sense of the real meaning of Christmas – Jesus. My husband and I are bringing up our son the same way :)

  • Rachel, I love this poem, too. I wasn’t sure I’d tell the girls about Santa when they were small, but someone beat me to it … I’d walk into Wal-Mart and everyone would ask them, “Are you ready for Santa?” Ha! So … I was pushed right into it. Ha! We played along … I told the girls that Santa was imagination, and they act like I never told them. They love the fun with it … even at 15 and 13 … from time to time, they’ll give me a wink. So … I stay up late on Christmas Eve waiting for them to fall asleep so I can do my magic!

  • My husband and daughter recite the poem every year while we decorate the tree, correcting each other when one forgets a line. It’s one of those little traditions that bring the season to life for us. And I still get up in the middle of the night Christmas Eve to fill the stockings, even though my daughter’s an adult, and we’ve added my son-in-law’s to the mantel.
    My advice is to decide early how you want to handle Santa and then enjoy the season. Merry Christmas, Rachel!

  • I love this poem. It held even more magic when I was a child since I grew up in a house without a chimney, and a town without snow. Santa has always been recognized as the second runner up in my family’s Christmas celebrations. My Papa used to carry a sack of sweets into the living room on Christmas Eve, and with a merry “Ho, Ho”, dole out each grandchild’s favorite snack. Fun memories to be sure.

    I read this poem from Emily Dickinson recently.
    “Before the ice is in the pools,
    Before the skaters go,
    Or any cheek at nightfall
    Is tarnished by the snow,
    Before the fields have finished,
    Before the Christmas tree,
    Wonder upon wonder
    Will arrive to me!”

  • Happy St. Nicholas Day, Rachel. What a perfect post for today.

    I love Clement Moore’s poem for its vivid description and whimsy. It definitely has resonated with generation after generation. When I taught high school English, I generally assigned a descriptive narrative essay as the writing portion of the mid-term exam and many of the students wrote about Santa and his elves. When we came back from Christmas break, I handed back exams and had to get my students to understand that describing Santa with “cheeks like roses and a nose like a cherry” or saying that he his belly “shook like a bowlful of jelly” when he laughed was plagiarism. They understood what plagiarism was but they had a difficult time seeing those descriptions as plagiarism because, to them, that’s exactly what Santa was like, so how else could he be described?

    To your question about the idea that Santa distracts from the true meaning of Christmas, I don’t agree. I think what he represents reinforces the meaning of Christmas. Of course he can be an example of giving, but he also, I think, is an example of love, especially in the St. Nicholas version of the story. Aren’t God’s generosity, compassion, and love central to Christmas?

    I’m glad that you and your husband have found a home that you are happy in. Many blessings on you and your family.

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      I didn’t know it was St. Nicholas Day today! How neat! It just worked out perfectly!

      And I think that Santa and St. Nick do show the spirit of Christmas, but it is also important to remember that Jesus is the true reason we should celebrate.

  • Thanks for the memories, Rachel. We read “The Night Before Christmas” so many times that our 5 year old had it memorized. Just to settle him down in the backseat of the car, I suggested he recite it. He was spot on until he said:

    “Away to the window I flew like a flash,
    Tore open the shutters and threw up the hash.”

    My brother nearly drove off the road.

  • My parents read us that book, and the Nativity story from the Bible every Christmas Eve and I still love it.

    My book, Secret Service Saint, shows how Saint Nicholas became known as Santa Claus because of his secret good deeds. I think it ties the legend and our faith together for kids.

  • Sarah Sundin says:

    I always loved that poem as a child. My parents really played up Santa as real, and I loved the magic. I won’t go into my Traumatic Moment when I realized Santa wasn’t real :)

    With our children, we chose the middle ground. We told them the truth – St. Nicholas was a real man who lived and died, who loved Jesus so much he gave gifts. He is not eternal, omnipresent, or omnipotent as in so many Santa stories. But we hung stockings and had/have Santa decorations as part of the fun.

    On the funny side…I was volunteering in my oldest son’s first-grade class during the Christmas party, and his teacher came up to me, convulsed with repressed laughter. My matter-of-fact future engineer was telling the children that Santa was dead. We had a little talk in the car on the way home…

  • Elaine says:

    I always loved that poem.

    I was raised with all the fantasy. I believed it all for a long time because I clung to the belief in the Easter Bunny, and the questions regarding Santa seemed the same. (I firmly believed I had seen the Easter Bunny’s shadow in my closet.) It was years later that I wondered whether someone might dismiss Jesus Christ along with Santa and the bunny just as Paula’s friend did.

    I think the idea you’ve presented is excellent. We must be careful. Because so many people now reject Christianity, children are more and more likely to reject Christ with the myths.

  • . . . every December 24th, the little boy in me sit’s by my bedroom window, looking for – Rudolf’s Nose.

  • Her Grace says:

    As a child, I was devastated to learn that Santa wasn’t real. I didn’t have nearly enough magic in my young life, and every little bit was precious to me.

    Every adult in my life built up that illusion, only to shatter it. How crushing to a child!

    I promised myself I would never do that to my children–shatter their illusions and destroy the magic of hope. Likewise, I wanted to preserve that magic so it could also bless their lives.

    So…

    I told them about St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, and related the tale of how he’d secretly given three impoverished young women dowries so they could marry. Also told them how he was mortal, and died like any other human being.

    But since that time, I told them, countless people have sought to preserve the selflessness and generosity of that first St Nicholas. These people, even today, take upon themselves the Spirit of Santa Claus and give gifts without expecting anything in return.

    Because of that, he will always be real to us.

  • Lynn Johnston says:

    I am now wondering if I should raise my daughter to know the truth about Santa. I just assumed that she wouldn’t get as excited about Santa if she knew the truth. Once my oldest child knew the truth, we still tried to let him go along with it for his sister’s sake. But I am not sure if he feels the same thrill. How did that work in your family? Did you feel the urge to tell your believing friends the truth?

    • Rachel Kent Rachel Kent says:

      Lynn Johnston » You do what you feel is best for your family! I don’t think there’s a wrong or right way to go about Christmas as long as we remember Jesus is a part of it.

      All I remember is knowing that Santa wasn’t real, but still pretending he was. I was the youngest of 3 though and I’m sure my brothers played along too. (Became the middle of 5 at 8-years-old.) But Christmas morning we’d find that “Santa” had come and filled the stockings and dropped of a load of gifts and we’d all say, “Thanks, Santa.” when we opened them, but we knew they were from my parents. I never felt the urge to spoil Santa for others. I’m pretty sure my parents told me that each family does it differently so I shouldn’t talk about it with my friends. Because I knew Santa was fun and pretend, I don’t think it was a big deal to me.

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