The Story Behind The Fight for “The Night”
On December 23, 1823, a small-town newspaper in Troy, N.Y., published an
anonymous poem, originally titled “An account of a Visit from St. Nicholas.” about a Christmas gift-giver who traveled on a sleigh pulled by a flying reindeer. In 1836, a distinguished, wealthy, seminary professor named Clement C. Moore acknowledged that he was the author of the poem, and his authorship was uniformly recognized for almost two centuries.
As the popularity of the poem grew, it had a dramatic effect on the celebration of Christmas in America, establishing both the appearance and practices of the American gift-giver and helping to replace the drunken, Mardi Gras-style street parties on Christmas Eve with family-friendly celebrations on Christmas morning. Moore’s authorship of the poem remained virtually unchallenged until 2000, when Don Foster, a Vasar English professor and self-proclaimed “literary detective,” wrote a book, Author Unknown, in which he challenged Moore’s authorship in favor of a Poughkeepsie farmer, Henry Livingston Jr., who purportedly read the poem to his children on
Christmas morning in 1808. in “The Fight for 'The Night,’” author Tom A. Jerman’s second book on the history of Santa Claus, Jerman carefully refutes Foster’s claim, citing historical, biographical, stylistic and stylometric evidence that Moore wrote the poem and Livingston did not.