The joy of this time of year has been felt by generations for many centuries. The anticipation of seeing loved ones who are away most of the year and whose return completes the family circle, makes this time of year spellbinding. Possibly it was Clement Clarke Moore who defined the warmth and merriment of Christmas with his poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas at its best.
Whether just mastered as a young reader or through older eyes of a parent or grandparent, the sense of the emotions that run in and out of a person’s thoughts about the Christmas holiday are felt when revisiting Mr. Moore’s warm words. With a daft hand, he created something that still resonates with children of all ages.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads. And Mama in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of midday to objects below, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick, I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick. More rapid than eagles, his coursers they came, and he whistled and shouted and called them by name: “Now Dasher! Now Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen! On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen! To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall! Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly, when they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky so up to the house-top the coursers they flew, with the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof. As I drew in my head and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot, and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. A bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry! His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry! His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow, and the beard on his chin was as white as the snow. The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. He had a broad face and a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf, and I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself. A wink of his eye and a twist of his head soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, And away they all flew like the down of a thistle. But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight, “Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
As we move towards this magical time of the year, knowing that the grandest magic in a child’s mind exists between the 12:00am and 6:00am, we at Playgroup bid you a warm and happy Christmas. We hope that you have the opportunity to see all family and friends that you have missed and hope to be near. Enjoy the magic and merriment coupled with good will to all!
Maybe Christmas, the Grinch thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Cynthia Rylant | Illustrations: Christian Robinson
Little Penguins, a sweet story about how excited little penguins can be when they are hopeful to play in the snow for the first time. Grabbing mittens and scarves, they dash to the snow to have fun!
Question for Lonna
Children can feel more excitement than normal given the anticipation of Christmas. In order to keep children agreeable, there are two forms of deterrents that a parent may wish to use—the Naughty/Nice List and the The Elf on the Shelf. What are your thoughts about these two preventative measures?
I have to let everyone in on the worst kept secret of Playgroup. In many households the elf on the shelf is said to come to my house–NOT Santa’s. I am the preventative measure used by many. “I will have to tell Lonna” has been a preventative measure for over twenty years.
Honestly, Santa and I have a lot in common. We both clearly have over-indulged in carbs recently, we both are considered wise. We have somewhat magical powers and we both travel a great distance for children.
I once judged all parents who used him to avoid taking responsibility in the tough task of disciplining children. Now I find him to be a kindred spirit.
Parenting is brutal. It guts the strongest of our species. Parenting requires the highest level of attention with the least amount of sleep. Only an air traffic controller can compare. During the most stressful season when parents must redecorate their house, attend endless evening events and spend the equivalent of a small country’s GNP they use a silly elf and jolly old man to keep their children well behaved.
As their children get older they know there is a heavy wink when Willy, the elf on the shelf returns after the nightly spy recap to Santa. They begin to question the physics of Santa and their chimney. Even when they are old enough to identify that Santa and Daddy have the same hand writing (a former student said to her mother, “Looks like you and Santa attended the same school in Shanghai.”)
The myth endures, the myth engages and the myth comforts. I used to judge and lecture on the abdication of parenting by using Santa. I no longer do. We all need a little Santa every now and then. Send out the elf, tell the children he’s making a list and checking it twice. It’s just one month out of the year.
Besides, after Christmas you can go back to pretending to FaceTiming Lonna.
Executive Director, Playgroup