The origins of this story, in retrospect, make it a relatively recent fairy tale (1849). But in my lifetime, it’s a tradition that goes way back… As far back as I can remember actually, my father always read, “The Night Before Christmas” to my brother and I on Christmas Eve.
For me, the most significant gift of all, is the time spent with friends and family during this season.
For years now, I have been hosting Christmas Eve at our home and my Mom and Dad come every year. My brother comes home from the west coast and my youngest son and daughter-in-law join us. My oldest lives too far away make the trip very often but we include him in our thoughts each Christmas Eve. We feast and listen to old-time carols; we share gifts and jokes and dreams, we linger over somewhat exotic holiday liqueurs and enjoy the true meaning of this family gathering; peace in our hearts and being together for another year. At some point in our subtle revelries, my Dad dons his Santa hat, clears his throat and regales us with the “Night Before Christmas.” For me, the holiday season is not complete until that anticipated annual tradition has been fulfilled. For a few moments, I feel 5 years old again and try to remain dry-eyed during the traditional rendition …My Dad Reciting, Not Actually Reading, The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
My children have grown up listening to their grandfather reading this historic tale each Christmas season and I am sure it runs deep in their souls as well as my own. I feel sure, that the melodic and evocative words are tattooed across my heart in Dad’s voice…Some of the Great Imaginative Illustrations, Demonstrating the Magic of the Event, this Book Illustrated by Rene Cloke
Because of this heritage, I have been collecting various versions of this book for a very long time. I have the original Golden Book I owned as a small child. I remember staring at the images for hours, trying to imagine how the big man in the illustration ever fit down that slender chimney and how all those reindeer stayed on that slanted roof.
It’s Still One of the Great Mysteries in my Life… (Illustration by Ruth Sanderson)And Another Great Mystery… (Illustrated by William Rogers Snow)This was my First Very Own Version of this Classic, Given to me by my Grandmother Claire
Years later, I was the honored recipient of my Grandmother Dorothy’s frayed and fragile copy of this epic tale. Whenever I spied a copy of The Night Before Christmas at a yard sale, bookstore or used bookstore, I fell on it and tested it to see if it met my criteria. First, it must be affordable and second, it had to have wonderful illustrations. Using these standards, I have perused dozens of versions of this story and acquired a few.
My collection of these books, are among my most prized treasures. They only come out for a few weeks each December, leading up to Christmas, then get tucked away again after the holidays.
It is interesting to note, as I have after some research and observation, that there are actually many versions of this story and even more than one supposed disputed provenance as well. It doesn’t matter to me though. It’s still all lifetime childhood magic as far as I am concerned …
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Dollhouse from the Front
Another result of this cherished annual holiday tradition and indelible memories, was inevitably combined with one of my other passions; dollhouse building.
I built a small cottage-style dollhouse with The Night Before Christmas in mind. Because of the vintage nature of my associations with this tale, I chose a color scheme of antique reds, greens and whites, inside and out. This immediately leant an old-fashioned air to the project.
I only take this house out around the holidays as well. It is up for a few weeks in December, then packed carefully away again until the next Christmas season.‘Twas the Night Before Christmas Dollhouse from the Back
Tiny guests enjoy Christmas punch, Yule Log and Christmas Pudding as well as many other tiny delights.
Upstairs, the living room is in relaxed suspense, with a tiny decorated tree, toys and gifts beneath and a fire ablaze in the hearth.
In the bedroom, an imaginary child awaits anxiously at the window for the first sight of the magic sleigh or sound of ‘each tiny hoof.’
Whatever your traditions and special associations for this holiday season, I wish you peace and wonder. I hope you have to time to stop and enjoy the subtle pleasures that make the holidays so special.
To me this tale speaks of the Hope and Wonder of the holiday season.
Take time to experience the scents of balsam and ginger, the taste of cranberry and nutmeg, the sounds of old-time carols and children laughing, watch the silent dance of snowflakes swirling and the reflection of candles on window panes …
May visions of sugarplums dance in your head!
And to All a Good Night !
(William Rogers Snow Illustration)