’Twas the Night Before Christmas in Sing Sing

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Clement C. Moore, author of the beloved poem ’ Twas the Night Before Christmas, had a family connection to Sing Sing. According to the biography by Samuel White Patterson, Moore “had once contemplated making a summer home on the Hudson. In 1839, he bought a beautiful estate at Sing Sing.” Moore let his son Benjamin “have the property” and the famous scholar and poet “journeyed to Sing Sing from time to time to visit Benjamin and his wife.” 1

The Benjamin Moore estate (left) from the Atlas of Westchester County, New York by G.W. Bromley & Co., 1881.

The Benjamin Moore estate (left) from the Atlas of Westchester County, New York by G.W. Bromley & Co., 1881.

The website for Dale Cemetery has additional details. “The Moore Family resided in Ossining from about 1839 until the early years of this century. . . . The family resided in one of Ossining’s oldest houses located near the river in the Brayton Park area. The house, known as “Moorehaven” was built around 1740 by a Dutch family named Auser, original settlers in the area. It was the scene of a Revolutionary War skirmish between an American raiding party that had stopped there briefly on a return trip from behind the British lines, and a British detachment that had pursued them from the Bronx.

Clement Moore, although a visitor to Ossining, was not known to have resided here other than for brief visits. . . . The Moore Family were prominent Ossining residents. They were members of Trinity Church and donated the clock and chimes to the church in 1894.”2

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Tonight, before the kids are nestled all snug in their beds, with visions of sugar-plums dancing in their heads, tell them that many years ago—just a short sleigh-ride from Croton—a famous author was tucking his grandchildren into bed on Christmas Eve and he read them one of his poems called A Visit from St. Nicholas. It goes like this:

’ 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 mamma in her ’ kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn 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 shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he 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, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
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 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!”

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  1. The Poet of Christmas Eve, a Life of Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863 by Samuel White Patterson. New York, Morehouse-Gorham Co., 1956. See the book here.
  2. See this page on the Dale Cemetery website.

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