Santa author: ‘The Night Before Christmas’ author was not a farmer

News release from Author Tom A Jerman:

On the bicentennial of a famous Christmas poem, a new book challenges the often-made claim that a Poughkeepsie farmer authored “The Night Before Christmas,” not Clement C. Moore.

In “The Fight for the Night; Resolving the Dispute Over Authorship of ‘The Night Before Christmas,’” author and Asheville resident Tom A. Jerman, citing historical, biographical, stylistic and stylometric evidence of authorship, addresses the claim that a Poughkeepsie farmer, Henry Livingston, Jr., wrote America’s favorite poem rather than Clement C. Moore, the wealthy, erudite, New York seminary professor who has been consistently credited with authorship for almost 200 years. The poem, which marks its bicentennial this year, was originally published anonymously on December 23, 1823, in The Troy (N.Y.) Sentinel under the title “An Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas,” and Moore claimed authorship in 1836. In 2000, however, Don Foster, a Vassar College English professor and self-proclaimed “literary detective,” asserted in his book, Author Unknown, that the real author was Livingston, who purportedly read the poem to his family in 1808.

The upshot of Foster’s book and a similar treatise by New Zealand professor MacDonald P. Jackson in 2016 was that the media and some scholars began to describe the authorship of “The Night Before Christmas” as an open question. In “The Fight for The Night,” Jerman explains how the poem’s reliance on an 1821 children’s book, The Children’s Friend, that tells the story of “Santeclaus” delivering presents on Christmas Eve in a sleigh pulled by flying reindeer precludes any claim that Livingston wrote the poem between 1800 and 1808.

About the Author

Tom A. Jerman is the author of Santa Claus Worldwide: A History of St. Nicholas and Other Holiday Gift-Bringers (2020), a book that has been called the “definitive history” of Santa Claus. He holds degrees in philosophy (B.S.), journalism (B.S.) and law (J.D.), and practiced law for 35 years with two international law firms before retiring in 2015 to document the history of Santa. Jerman’s interest in Santa Claus dates from 1985, when he began collecting Santa Claus figurines and ornaments—a collection that now numbers some 4,500 pieces.

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2 thoughts on “Santa author: ‘The Night Before Christmas’ author was not a farmer

  1. Scott Norsworthy

    was NOT a farmer you mean in the headline. The author of “The Night Before Christmas” was Bible scholar, seminary professor and poet Clement C. Moore, as Mr. Jerman’s new book overwhelmingly demonstrates.

    • Greg Parlier

      Scott, you are totally right. My apologies on the headline error. A small, three-letter word makes all the difference in the world. Thanks for pointing out our mistake, and thanks for reading.

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