Today, the 23rd of December 2013, marks 190 years since the classic poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was first published.
"Twas the Night Before Christmas" wasn't always the name of the poem. When it was first published in 1823, the title was "A Visit from St. Nicholas." The origin of the poem is a tale in itself. The poem first appeared in an upstate New York newspaper, Troy Sentinel, with the author remaining anonymous. It wasn't until years later, in 1844, that the alleged author revealed himself. "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was added to the list of works of poet Clement Clarke Moore, though there are many who doubt that he is the real author.
Although the poem is usually attributed to Moore, since it was included in one of his books of poetry, there is some dispute over the actual author. Henry Livingston Jr. is also associated with the poem, for multiple reasons. These many reasons are displayed chronologically in this timeline, but there is no evidence that demonstrates without a doubt the poem was written by Livingston.
Livingston Jr. passed away in 1828, five years after the poem was published. He wasn't alive when Moore claimed ownership. Now, 190 years later, there will probably never be a clear determination of the writer of the poem. Supposedly, after the poem was written by Livingston Jr., it was shared with Moore's family by a governess with ties to both families. In 1819, Livingston Jr.'s New Year's poem was published in a newspaper. It was remarkably similar to the iconic Christmas poem published four years later.
There is another, completely different version of events. In 1822, Moore read to his children the poem that he had written. He urged them not to tell anyone about the poem. A few weeks later, someone who got the poem from Moore's children anonymously sent it to the Troy Sentinel.
The mystery of the poem doesn't take away from its impact on the holiday season for nearly two centuries. It isn't just an iconic classic, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" completely changed the way we celebrate this holiday. Until the poem was published, St. Nicholas had never been associated with a sleigh or reindeer. Even the names of the reindeer first appeared in the poem.
Norman Tuttle, a Troy Sentinel editor in the 1800s, should also be credited with his contribution to "Twas the Night Before Christmas." He made 21 changes in his editing of the poem in 1830. His edits included arranging the names of the reindeer in the rhythm that is still being used in popular Christmas songs and movies nowadays. Also, Blixen's name was originally Blixem, before it was changed by David McClure in 1825.
The full text of the original poem can be read here, towards the bottom of the page. The edited text can be read here.
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"