Yvonne Hollenbeck: The power of Christmas poetry
In my estimation, never has a poem had such an impact of society than that of Clement C. Moore’s, “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” better known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Of course, I the poem needs no introduction, nor do I need to post it here; however, that poem created in the early 19th century is credited for creating the modern legend of Santa Claus. Actually, Mr. Moore was a writer/professor who became famous for the Hebrew Dictionary that he wrote. The poem was penned on a whim for his children, and was first published anonymously in the Troy, New York “Sentinel” on December 23, 1823. It was not until 1837 that the poem was first attributed in print to Moore. Initially, Moore refused to deny or confirm authorship of the poem so as to protect his public reputation as a professor of ancient languages. In 1844, he did include it in an anthology of his works. His children, for whom he had originally written the piece, encouraged this publication. It was then that he basically “came out of the closet” and admitted to writing the poem. As the saying goes, “The rest is history.”
Today, in America as well as world-wide, most people immediately think of the fictitious Santa Claus when they think of Christmas. Billions of dollars are spent annually on the Christmas holiday and festivities of all types are built around the context of that poem. But how did that little poem, written so many years ago, come to affect the Christmas holiday in such a big way?
When visiting with my grandmothers, who were born in 1892 and 1893, they both alluded to the fact that Christmas was quite simple when they were young. Church was always important to their celebration of the holiday. They did receive a simple, usually homemade gift, from their parents, but neither ever experienced a visit from Santa Claus.
Sadly, we have been programmed to look to the Christmas season as a hap-hap-happy time of the year, but not everyone can share those feelings. Many friends and family members have been plagued with sickness and death, and recently our community has experienced tragedies that have numbed many residents. How do you wish these folks a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and expect them to have a jovial time? I wrote the following poem that will never be famous, especially to the proportion of “The Night Before Christmas,” but it too was written on a whim while sending Christmas cards, realizing that several people on my list had recently lost a loved one or had a child away in military service.
THE PERFECT GIFT
Not everyone’s Christmas is merry;
not everyone’s heart’s filled with cheer.
Perhaps it’s because they are missing
a loved one not with them this year.
It might be a soldier in service,
or death might have darkened their door.
There’s reasons why some folks are lonely
and something we should not ignore.
It must be real hard to be lonely,
while others are happy and gay;
while we see the blue skies and sunshine,
their skies are cloudy and gray.
And it’s easy with our lives so busy
to not take the time to be there
to help lift a burden for others
and let them know somebody cares.
If you want to do something this Christmas
to help those who might be alone,
take time from your parties and shopping
and give them a call on the phone.
Better yet, pay them a visit
to let them know somebody cares;
for none of us know of tomorrow
when we may have burdens to bear.
So this year when you go out shopping
be sure that you add to your list
a name of someone that’s lonely
and give them the best kind of gift.
You won’t have to spend any money,
for we know that the best gifts are free.
Take time for the lonely this Christmas,
I think it’s how God wants it to be.
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