Commentary: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ Helped Make the Modern Santa – and Led to a Literary Whodunit

close-up of Santa Claus suit

The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” better known by its opening line “‘Twas the Night before Christmas,” has a special place among Christmas traditions, right alongside hot chocolate, caroling and bright lights. It has also inspired the modern image of Santa Claus as a jolly old man sporting red and a round belly.

But this poem has been steeped in controversy, and debate still looms over who the true author is. Traditionally, Clement C. Moore – a 19th-century scholar at the General Theological Seminary in New York, where I work as a reference librarian – has been credited with writing the poem in 1822 for his children. Every December, library staff shares our multiple copies of the poem in an exhibit to celebrate the holiday season.

No matter who wrote it, the poem is a fascinating object that has shaped Christmases past, present – and maybe yet to come.

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Two White Translators Forced to Step Away from Translating Black-Authored Inauguration Poem

Several controversies have broken out in the past two months surrounding the foreign language translations of the poem read by Amanda Gorman at President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

Since February, two translators have been forced to step away from their position to translate the poem into Dutch and Catalan because of backlashes to the fact that they are both white.

Gorman, the poet who wrote “The Hill We Climb” for the inauguration, received immense fame for her work. The poem was planned to be translated into 16 languages and distributed internationally.

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