Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Twas the Night Before Christmas

We went to the 97th annual reading of "Twas the Night Before Christmas," at Trinity Church up in Washington Heights. Omar Minaya, New York Mets General Manager, led the holiday tradition, which ends with a glow stick procession down to Clement Moore's grave in Trinity Church Cemetery. Dozens of kids gathered close to Omar and beat him the punch on most of the rhymes, to which he joked, "The Mets are easy to manage compared to this." The highlight was the Harlem Choir's rendition of "Go Tell it on the Mountain," with their sharp gesticulation and perfect pitch.

"Twas the Night Before Christmas" gives us most of the images we associate with Santa Claus, the belly, the pipe, the rain deer, the sleigh. It is a powerful example of poetry shaping culture.

Moore was instrumental in saving New York's Greenwich Village from the grid. He wrote a 60-page pamphlet anonymously that argued against extending the orthogonal grid of streets into the village. His arguments were persuasive and the grid stopped at 6th Avenue and at 14th Street. He was a professor of classics at the General Theological Seminary in New York and wrote a most famous scholarly work one the lexicon of the Hebrew language.

Moore of course is best know for the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas," here is link to a site that has compelling evidence that Moore may not have been the author. Henry Livingston the facts are on your side! Moore's father swore in George Washington and was a bigwig in the church, as was Moore. Some of Livingston's relatives were also church high-ups and may have backed off on pushing for claiming ownership.

Especially interesting is the "smoking gun" section.

Here's another site that highlights lit sleuth
Professor Don Foster's work on the case.

Last here is link to the New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham's piece on the culmination of the Santa image/myth.