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Ten interesting facts about the famous poem

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

10 Clement C. Moore wrote the poem on Christmas Eve in 1822 after buying a turkey. Legend has it he set it to paper and then read it to his children after dinner. Although the original version no longer exists, Moore hand wrote at least four other copies during his lifetime. They are held by the New York Historical Society; the Strong Museum in Rochester, N.Y.; the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif.; and Kaller's America Gallery in New York City.

9 Moore never titled the poem. Orville L. Holley, editor of the Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel, first published the work in 1823. He called it, "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas" and penned a 27-line explanation disclaiming any knowledge of the poet's identity but justifying its publication by writing, "there is ... a spirit of cordial goodness in it, a playfulness of fancy, and a benevolent alacrity to enter into the feelings and [to] promote the simple pleasures of children, which are altogether charming."

8 Moore's name was first attached to the poem in 1837 in the New York Book of Poetry, an anthology edited by the literary editor and critic, Charles Fenno Hoffmann. Moore claimed ownership in 1844 when he published a collection of his own poems for his family.

7 Moore's poem refers to St. Nick or St. Nicholas, never Santa Claus.

6 Moore named the reindeer, although over the years, various editors have changed Donder to Donner or Dunder and Blitzen to Blixem.

5 Moore's original ending is "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night." Some versions instead say, "Merry Christmas to all ..."

4 Moore never copyrighted the poem, which is why it is so easily published. In the past three decades, it's been published in 15 languages.

3 Moore describes St. Nick as holding a "stump of a pipe" in his teeth. A stump of a pump, or small pipe, would be smoked by someone who was not wealthy.

2 Moore was a wealthy theologian and scholar of Hebrew, Greek and Latin, who wrote treatises on the state of affairs of the country and on New York City.

1 Moore was always unhappy that his reputation did not come from his scholarship work but rather from a 56-line ditty he wrote for his children.

-- Compiled by Johnna A. Pro and Nancy H. Marshall

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