/A Visit from St. Nicholas/

Clement Clarke Moore’s fantastical poem of a visit was first anonymously published in the Sentinel on 23 December 1823 and quickly became the lead source of the Santa Claus narrative.

‘Twas the Friday before festive, and the /explain/ editor sat

With his dogs at his feet, because his nose can’t stand cats.

It’s the hundred-and-ninety-nineth anniversary of this poem, you see

So let’s explore the tale of how Christmas traditions came to be.


First rewind the clocks to 336 A.D.

And you’ll find the Romans celebrating Jesus Christ’s Nativity.

The original festivities started on December seventeenth

And ended at solstice with some joyous scenes.


Historians are unsure of the date of Christ’s birth

But we have Emperor Constanine I to thank for choosing December twenty-fifth.

And when the empire spread west and took over Britain

It was the English who coopted the pagan traditions.


Yes, the Yule Log and festooned fir is distinctly Germanic

But we won’t get into that history right now, don’t panic.

Enter stage left, it’s our old friend Saint Nicholas

Who was maybe a sailor, or a bishop for the Catholics.


He may even have been at the Council of Nicea

Where our boy Constantine established the laws for hallelujah.

Then the Dutch gave him the name Sinterklaas

And took him with them to the Americas.


This is where our tale takes a dark twist

Before Washington Irving, Christmas was a lot more socialist.

You may know him better by his Diedrich Kickerbocker pseudonym

And his History of New York that inspired this hymn.


Yes, the Knickerbockers are the cause of all this

When Irving’s satire simultaneously mocked and normalised Dutch Christmas.

Sinterklaas’s festival moved from December the fifth

And he traded his boat for a flying chariot, laden with gifts.


Gone was Zwarte Piet and his soot-covered face

It was now St Nicholas who from chimney to chimney would race.

But the bourgeoise took a liking to the Dutch treats of the time

But didn’t want it to accompany the generosity sign.


Workers would look forward to their Kerstpakket hamper

A food basket from their employer to help with the winter.

The public sharing and community cheer was too much for highbrow New Yorkers

And they decided to privatise Christmas and only give gifts to their sons and their daughters.


And in 1823 Clement Clarke Moore and his pen

Rewrote Christmas history to keep Christmas Eve quiet instead.

And now you associate Christmas with Coke

Because capitalism wanted in on the Knickerbocker joke.


But please, continue celebrating family with cheer

And I hope to enthrall you with more stories next year.

I wish you a festive filled with delight.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate, and to all a good night.

Featured image: Rodion Kutsaiev/Unsplash