We probably don't realize how much Clement Clarke Moore's poem, "A Visit From Saint Nicholas" (eg "Twas the Night Before Christmas") has shaped our American conception of Christmas and Santa Claus. Published in 1823, it did with American Christmases what influential works of art do: both drawing from and reflecting the reality of the day, in addition to reinforcing and creating images and ideas that would become the reality for new generations.
When I was a boy, my grandmother, mother, and my two aunts got together frequently to sing around the piano. They were all very musical and the fact that they got a great deal of joy from this activity was enhanced by the fact that they sounded really good. Many of my very warm, cherished memories of Christmases past is of being at Grandma's house, hearing them singing them singing.
This song was one that they sang, and it has a lot of sentimental value to me. I also remember that we had a record by this choral group (with this song on it) in my house when I was growing up, so I heard it a lot then, too.
A few years ago, I had a group of 8th graders (the last grade at our school--so they are like our seniors) of whom I was particularly fond. It was a talented, hard-working group--and they were also just great kids. I wanted to do something special for our winter concert, so I did this song with them. It was a stretch for middle school kids because it's so long and there are so many different melodies and harmonies to learn, but they did a good job, and now, when I hear this song, they and their singing are another layer of the good memories I associate with this song.
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