"Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there." Impossible, I thought. How could anybody not stir knowing that Santa Claus and his eight reindeer were on their way to deliver all the toys (or at least one or two of them) they'd dreamt of having all year long?
My beautiful, young Susie-Homemaker mom barely glanced at the lines, as my brother, sisters and I huddled at her feet in front of the crackling fire in our sparkling dining room reading to her five stair steps. Red, green and blue lights draped the four window sashes on the adjacent wall. In the adjoining living room, in front of the large bay window, our 7-foot, freshly cut and adorned fir tree glowed with silver tinsel, as layers of multicolored lights cast their shimmering glow on the freshly, hand-waxed floor, like a full moon over an ebony lake. It was our first Christmas in our new house and I was in heaven: For the first time, we had a chimney for Santa to come down.
I'd heard the story before, at least seven consecutive Christmases running, but this was the first time, I paid close attention to each line. And the more I listened, the more I began to doubt the facts as stated. For starters, there was the bit about everybody in the house being sound asleep in bed on the biggest night of the year. I'd been through my share of Christmases and that never happened in our house. We'd each take turns, sneaking out of bed, tip-toeing through the kitchen, gently easing the swinging kitchen door open and stealthily making our way into the living room, first checking the stockings hung over the fireplace to see what Mama and Daddy had given us, then making our way to the living room to see if Santa Claus had stopped by yet. A notoriously light sleeper, when it wasn't my turn to play sleuth, I propped my head up on my pillow anticipating the faintest sound as Santa's sleigh approached, knowing I'd recognize the distinct sound of hooves on the roof even if I didn't hear their silver bells. I slept in one of the top bunk beds, so I was closer to the ceiling, which made me the best sentry for the task. I knew I'd hear them whenever they arrived, if only I could stay awake long enough. Besides, how could I possibly sleep through the racket?
Then there was the question of Rudolph:
" Now Dasher! now Dancer, now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On Cupid! on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"
Why was he always left out of the lineup? Surely his red nose could serve some purpose on such an eventful night.
And how did Santa actually get down the chimney without getting stuck? Was he double jointed like the girl in my second grade class who could make her elbows face forward and swivel her knees around without moving her feet? But she was thin; Santa wasn't. And, did he crawl back up after he cleaned the soot off all the packages and the floor? At seven-and-a-half years old, the story had begun to unravel, but not the wonder and excitement and comfort and security I felt on my first Christmas Eve in our new house. If I close my eyes I can feel the warmth of the fire on my tender skin, smell the fragrant pine and the sweet scorch of marshmallows roasting over the open fire.Yes, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas remains one of my favorite Christmas tales ever.
As Santa would say as "he drove out of sight, Happy Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!"
Thank you author Clement Clarke Moore for this holiday classic.