New York City, New York
Over the centuries there has been much written about the iconic Christmas figure, Santa Claus. But the work that did more to define the modern-day image of this jolly old elf was the poem A Visit From St. Nicholas, also known as Twas the Night Before Christmas. Published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in 1823, this most famous of holiday poems has been attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, a professor at Columbia University. In the two centuries since, it has become a favorite Christmas Eve reading to children the world over.
Clement Clarke Moore is generally recognized as the author of A Visit from St. Nicholas, although a case has also been made for one of his contemporaries, Henry Livingston Jr. A teacher of literature and Biblical studies at Columbia and the General Theological Seminary, he is ironically best remembered for the Christmas trifle that he tossed off in 1823. After its publication, Moore became a household name in New York, with a small park eventually named after him. After his death in 1863, he was honored with burial in one of the cemeteries of Trinity Church in Manhattan.
A Visit from St. Nicholas, simple poem that it is, is not only one of the most popular Christmas traditions. It is also largely responsible for the modern-day conception of Santa Claus. Everything from the description of his stature to his sleigh with eight reindeer came from this poem. According to sources, there are four extant handwritten copies of the poem. However, it is not disclosed where they are located. Readings have become an annual holiday tradition for many families around the world. Perhaps the best-known public reading is the one which takes place annually at Clement Clarke Moore Park.
Clement Clarke Moore Park is located on Manhattan’s Lower West Side at 10th Avenue & 22nd Street. The reading takes place on the last Sunday of Advent. Moore was interred in the second Trinity graveyard on Upper Broadway close to Washington Heights. The Church is open weekdays 7:00am-6:00pm; Saturdays 8:00am-4:00pm; and Sundays 7:00am-4:00pm. The Trinity Church Graveyard in Upper Manhattan is open weekdays 9:00am-4:00pm. There is no charge for admission. Web: www.trinitywallstreet.org (official website of Trinity Church).