Controversy over The Night Before Christmas


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Although A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as The Night Before Christmas, is one of the oldest and most recognized Christmas poems ever written, the controversy behind the story remains largely unknown.

The poem, originally titled “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was first published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel, a newspaper in the upstate New York town near Albany, on Dec. 23, 1823.

The poem was influential in creating concepts of Christmas that continue to this day. Readers were given a description of Santa Claus, the names of his reindeer and learned of the tradition of Santa delivering toys to children all over the world on Christmas Eve.

                                <p>Authorship of <em>The Night Before Christmas</em> remains in dispute but the famous Christmas poem has no bout influenced many of our holiday traditions.</p>


Authorship of The Night Before Christmas remains in dispute but the famous Christmas poem has no bout influenced many of our holiday traditions.

In 1837, Clement Clarke Moore accepted credit for being the author, sharing that he had originally written the poem as a gift for his children. Moore’s vision of Santa Claus was said to be based on that of a Christian saint by the name of St. Nicholas, as well as that of a portly Dutch handyman who, according to legend, drove the sleigh that brought Moore home from a shopping trip on a snowy winter’s day in 1822.

Moore was a professor and biblical scholar who reportedly wanted to keep his authorship a secret, as the poem was not considered a scholarly piece of work. It is said that a family friend sent the poem to the newspaper without Moore’s permission.

Although Moore identified himself as the author, descendants of Major Henry Livingston Jr., a justice of the peace, farmer and poet, have been trying to convince the public for decades that he actually wrote the poem, even though Livingston himself never claimed to have been the author.

The dispute over the famous poem’s authenticity became the basis of a jovial mock trial-by-jury held in Troy, , in December, 2013.

The first trial resulted in a hung jury, so a second was held one year later, with credit for the poem attributed to Livingston. Despite that outcome, a plaque about the poem, naming Moore as the author, continues to hang on the wall of the newspaper’s former office.

Almost 200 years since it was first published, the question of the poem’s authorship is still up for debate.

While we may never definitively know who wrote, there is no doubt the poem will continue to bring joy to children everywhere, for generations to come.

“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Cindy Murdoch

Cindy Murdoch
Transcona community correspondent

Cindy Murdoch is a community correspondent for Transcona. She can be contacted at

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