A 2020 Visit from St. Nicholas

December 15, 2020 | blog | By Mike Sullivan

In 1822, a New York professor and theologian named Clement Clarke Moore penned a holiday poem called “A Visit from St. Nicholas” that he wrote to read to his children on Christmas Eve. The following year, the poem was published anonymously in various newspapers, school readers and the like, and it quickly gained widespread attention across the country. In 1837, the poem was included in an anthology of works by New York poets called The New-York Book of Poetry, though still attributed to “Anonymous.” It wasn’t until Moore included the piece in his 1844 collection, Poems, that authorship was officially attributed to him.

Over the course of more than 150 years, reading “A Visit From St. Nicholas” during the holidays became one of our most beloved Christmas traditions. You could hear “Twas the night before Christmas” and see the poem’s depictions of Santa in everything from print ads and commercials to Christmas specials and greeting cards, making Clement C. Moore and his poem a holiday fixture.

There was only one problem. Clement C. Moore didn’t write “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Thanks in large part to Vassar professor Don Foster, who is also an expert in literary forensics, experts now agree the original poem, “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was actually written by Major Henry Livingston Jr., a member of a leading colonial New York family who also fought in the Revolutionary War.

It took 156 years to attribute authorship to the man who defined for all of us what Santa looks like, the number of reindeer he had and their names, but ultimately the truth was revealed.

And so, with a wink and a nod to Major Henry Livingston Jr., we offer our thoughts on how he might have altered his beloved poem had he lived with us through this year of COVID-19 and all the fun that came with it.

“Account of a Non-CDC Sanctioned Visit from St. Nicholas”
by Major Henry Livingston Jr. (and friends)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except my germaphobe spouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas would wash his hands before touching things there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of real school danced in their heads.

With mamma in her ‘kerchief, and our 80-inch screen,
We had just settled down to binge The Crown with the Queen.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
The dog went ballistic, and the cats, they all scattered.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
And I watched as my beer hit the floor with a splash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below.
When what to my half-drunken eyes did appear,
But a sleigh made by Tesla and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, all dressed like a gnome,
I knew Santa had ignored all the calls to stay home.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he pulled down his mask, to call them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
Through the cold, snowy night, they flew with each drift.
Rudolph dumped on a porch pirate stealing a gift.

As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew,
With a sleigh full of hand sanitizer, Clorox Wipes, too!
And then, in a twinkling, I heard hit the roof,
Two tons of reindeer and thirty-six hooves.
As I drew in my head, and I slipped on the suds,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a thud.

He was dressed all in fur, from his foot to his head,
With a big PPE mask all framed out in red.
A bundle of boxes he had flung on his back,
Like an Amazon driver delivering our stack.
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples were merry!
His cheeks were all red like he was allergic to dairy.
Then Santa bent over, his mouth drawn like a bow,
North Pole gyms were closed, too. He just needed a blow.

His mouth held a pipe, colored rich Christmas plaid,
But it was empty. Even Santa knows smoking is bad.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
His COVID nineteen shook like a bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old geez.
And I laughed when he gave me some Charmin to squeeze.
Then paper towels, meats, and a puzzle I scored,
Santa brought me what crazy people all tried to hoard.
He washed his hands twice, then with gifts from the sleigh,
He filled all the stockings, keeping six feet away.

Then taking a peek up the chimney once more,
He patted his stomach and left through the door.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like a Patriot missile.
But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, Dr. Fauci was right!”

MIKE SULLIVAN is president and CEO of  LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency and a top Dallas advertising agency for digital, social, mobile and user experience. For more about challenger branding, advertising and marketing, leadership, culture and other inspirations that will drive your success, visit our blog BARK! The Voice of the Underdog and catch up on all of our posts.

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Mike Sullivan

President at LOOMIS, the country’s leading challenger brand advertising agency


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