December 23: Twas The Controversy Before Christmas

TwasTheNightTwas two days before Christmas in 1823, when the Troy Sentinel published some poetry. Called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and published anonymously, the poem would go on to cause much controversy.

A poetic account of a drop-in from St. Nick, the verse’s imagery to this day still sticks: Like the names of eight reindeer, so lively and quick, and Santa Claus with a belly most thick.

Some say the poem was by Clement Moore. Others, they just aren’t so sure. There’s support for another author, the poet Henry Livingston, Junior.

Now let’s look at the evidence; and while doing so drop this poetic pretense.

Well, that’s enough of that. As I said, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was initially published anonymously. It wasn’t until 14 years later that Moore was credited as the writer of the poem by his friend Charles Fenno Hoffman. Interestingly, Moore initially disavowed the poem, because he allgedly didn’t want it to detract from his more serious scholarly works.

Although Moore has been accepted as the writer of the poem, recently scholars, led by Vasser College professor Donald Wayne Foster, have voiced support for a theory that Livingston was the poem’s true composer. Those who support the Livingston theory cite the following pieces of evidence: Livingston lived near Troy, and his published poetry has a similar voice to “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Not to mention, Moore had written about the evils of tobacco, and it would be unlikely that he would have depicted St. Nick with a pipe, as he is described in the poem. Additionally, Livingston’s mother was Dutch, which makes it likely that he was familiar with the Dutch Christmas legend of Sinterklaas. This would certainly explain the references to the reindeer “Dunder and Blixem” in the original published version.

Livingston died in 1828, so he was not able to dispute any authorial claims made by Moore. However, Livingston’s children claimed that he had read the poem to them years before it was first published. Interestingly, Livingston was related to Moore’s wife. So, perhaps Moore “borrowed” the poem from his distant in-law?

As tomorrow is Christmas Eve, you should probably prepare for your own impending visit from St. Nicholas. Now, you could leave milk and cookies out for Santa Claus, but I think that during his long journey around the world, Santa might want something a little stronger. So, why not mix things up a bit this year and leave a Bourbon Milk And Cookies for Santa this year? This delicious cocktail was created by Sergio Campos, the beverage manager at West Hollywood’s Andaz Hotel. The drink was born out of a conversation between Campos and the bakers of WeHo’s gluten-free bakery, The Inspired Baker.

Bourbon Milk And Cookies

  • 5 ounces whole milk, heated
  • 1 dash cinnamon
  • 1 dash vanilla bean
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 dash nutmeg
  • 1 ounce Bourbon

Shake without ice in a cocktail shaker and strain over ice in a rocks glass. Garnish with a cookie.

Tomorrow: Why is the military tracking Santa Claus?

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