Twas The Mystery Before Christmas



‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ 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…

How can so few words conjure up so much nostalgia and capture our imagination, year in, year out? This much-loved seasonal rhyme is the basis for so much of the folklore surrounding good old Santa Claus – what he looks like, his reindeer names and how he gets down the chimney! But what is especially intriguing is that it was first published anonymously in 1823 and ever since then, the authorship has been somewhat questionable.

Who would have the generosity of spirit to write such a magical poem and never claim the kudos?  Well, in 1837 the poem was attributed to the American poet, Clement Clarke Moore (they just don’t name ’em like that these days!) and in 1844 he included the poem in an anthology, claiming his authorship of the poem.  However, a professor of English in New York by the name of Donald Foster, challenged the authorship and believes that it was written by Henry Livingston Jr., a New York poet with Dutch and Scottish roots.

Having analysed the text, he was convinced that the phraseology and the optimistic approach was much more consistent with Livingston’s style than Moore’s.  But the real argument (in my opinion) is Livingston’s Dutch heritage.  The references to Saint Nicholas are very closely related to the Dutch ‘Sinteklaes’ tradition, with the reindeer names originally printed as ‘Dunder and Blixem’, Dutch for thunder and

Despite the fact that Livingston’s children also claimed that he had read them the poem before its publication, he never claimed authorship himself. Could it be the spirit of Christmas, to gift something so wonderful to the public without seeking recognition? There was even a mock trial held as recently as 2014 in New York, which reached the surprise verdict (hold on to your hats people) that Major Henry Livingston Jr is the true author of ‘Twas the night before Christmas’.  Read all about it here

Maybe it’s just the fact that I always root for the underdog, but for whatever reason, my money is on Livingston. Unless of course it is as Virginia Woolf once said – For most of history, anonymous was a woman. Maybe we’ll never know the true author, but either way, it is the most magical Christmas poem ever written and you can enjoy it in full here.

And if you’re looking for a book to lose yourself in over the holidays, why not get a copy of The Story Collector – there is no authorship controversy and I take full responsibility for the magic that inks every page!

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Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

It’s The Most Repetitive Time Of The Year



If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, then Christmas really takes the biscuit.  Is it just me, but when you reach a certain age, don’t you just kind of think ‘Christmas, again?  Really??’

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a total Grinch.  I mean, I used to love Christmas…. or at least I did the first 30 times!  Like I used to love clubbing till 5 in the morning or wearing platform boots, but you grow out of these things.  You mature.  Your tastes become more refined.  You move on.  But Christmas won’t let you move on.  Regardless of your age or your circumstances, Christmas demands to be observed, every year, for what has now become a two-month torture-fest celebration.

From November onwards, it’s the same old Christmas songs you’ve been subjected to every year ad nauseum, ringing out from every public space.  There’s no getting away from the countdown or the brainwashing to join the masses and start shopping for a meal that will take place in two months time.  Every half-cooked Nigella impersonator is telling you how to disguise your brussel sprouts so they don’t taste vile – I mean honestly, is there any other veg that has built its entire career around one meal?!

But that’s just the food.  The latest shopping frenzy to hit our shores, Black Friday, swiftly followed by Cyber Monday, only serve to remind you of the annual (vain) search to find vaguely novel gifts for the same people.  If, according to the ‘desire theory’ of Jacques Lacan, our desires can never fully be satisfied, I think we can safely assume the ‘perfect gift’ does not exist.  It’s just shit you got from the shop wrapped in sparkly paper.  And anyone with kids (including inner children) will know that the wrapping inevitably ends up being more fun than what’s inside!

The pressure to create a saccharin, picture perfect, roasting chestnuts on an open fire kind of Christmas inevitably spoils the entire thing.  Most people set themselves the unattainable goal of trying to re-create the magic and nostalgia of their own childhood memories, instead of breaking out of the mould and creating new traditions.  On top of the emotional cost is the actual cost of the aptly named ‘silly season’.  In Ireland, each houshold will spend approximately €1,400 this year – unlike the Dutch who will spend a rather sobering €211!  (And as far as I can tell, they invented the whole thing with the original Sinterklaas – so when you get your credit card bill in January, blame the Dutch!)

It can’t be December already?!

And besides, when you’ve reached a certain age, if you really want something, you’ll buy it for yourself.  Unless you’re a child, you’re hardly waiting for December to come so you can start dropping hints about that Swarovski watch you’ve had your eye on (oh, did I just say that out loud?!).  I have enough stuff (although it would be great to have the time constantly available on my wrist, in crystal form) and so does everyone else in my family.  I’d rather give to people who really need help this Christmas and just spend the holiday being greatful for what I have.  Maybe the best way to survive enjoy Christmas is to ditch the idea of a perfect day and try to have an enjoyable one instead.

Just to show that I’m not completely immune to the charms of the festive season, or averse to a new old Christmas song, here is a beautiful waltz from Lisa Hannigan.  Merry Christmas everybody (again!)