Monday, December 24, 2018

“The Middle Child’s Night Before Christmas” (2018 Update)

The Likely Author of “The Night Before Christmas” Was a Middle Child!

Livingston: All I want for
Christmas is some credit!

     While I was putting together an updated version of “The Middle Child’s Night Before Christmas(previously released in 2014), I found it odd that Santa’s 7th reindeer is named “Donder” in the famous Clement Clarke Moore poem, but called “Donner” in the 1949 Gene Autry song, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.” So I did a little Mid Kid muckracking, and made a shocking unrelated discovery: Clement Clarke Moore might be “The Grinch Who Stole the Night Before Christmas!” The likely real author was a Middle Child! His name was Henry Beekman Livingston, Jr. Naturally, he wasn’t given credit.
     When the poem (originally titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas”) was first published in 1823, it was submitted anonymously. In the following years, it was reprinted without attribution in countless publications. Word had spread that it was written by Moore, and in 1837 a friend of Moore's put Moore's name on the poem. When Moore included the poem in a book of his poetry published in 1844, he became accepted as the true author. It wasn’t until 15 years later when Livingston’s family first discovered Moore was taking credit for the poem they remember their father reading to them as his own as far back as 1807! They waited until 1900 before going public with their claim, and the issue has been debated ever since.
     In 2000, Donald W. Foster, a Literary Detective and Professor of English at Vassar College, argued Livingston was the true author. And as recently as 2016, New Zealand scholar MacDonald P. Jackson spent a year looking into the matter, concluding Livingston was the likely author. Good enough for me! (And you think I’m nuts spending a mere blog post on this?)
     While experts still debate who the real author of “The Night Before Christmas” was, there’s no question who wrote this version...

In case you’re still wondering, the names in the original 1823 poem were actually “Dunder” and “Blixem,” Dutch for “thunder” and “lightning.” (Which kind of makes sense because Moore knew German, not Dutch, and Livingston was of Dutch descent.) In a subsequent 1837 version, “Blixem” became “Blixen,” to make it rhyme with “Vixen,” and “Dunder” was renamed “Donder.” When Moore included the poem in his 1844 publication, he retained “Donder,” but “Blixen” was renamed “Blitzen.” Although “Donner” was popularized in the 1949 Rudolph song, the name was mentioned in the New York Times seven different times prior to 1949. So, mystery solved! Sort of. Not.

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Middle Children need to be heard!