Back in 1987 I came up with an ingenious way to remind yuletide revelers of the true meaning of Christmas: by rewriting the popular children’s verse that helped precipitate the commercialization of the holiday more than a century and a half ago.
In “A Visit from St. Nick,” better known as “The Night Before Christmas,” Clement Moore dispensed with the true story of the nativity and substituted instead a fanciful tale of a jolly fat fellow who flies from rooftop to rooftop in a reindeer-drawn sleigh and slides down chimneys with a bagful of stocking stuffers. It’s an imaginative and charming bit of nonsense, but it’s not what Christmas is all about.
In my revised version, entitled “A Visit from the Christ Child,” I offered a “crèche course” in the true meaning of Christmas, using the identical meter and rhyme scheme of Moore’s original poem to tell the story of a father who realizes that his family has succumbed to commercialization:
Twas the morning of Christmas, when all through the house
All the family was frantic, including my spouse;
For each one of them had one thing only in mind,
To examine the presents St. Nick left behind.
Gathering his family together, the father reminds them of the real significance of the occasion, recounting the details and explaining the significance of the birth of Jesus. He concludes with an exhortation to keep the true meaning of Christmas uppermost in their minds:
“Santa Claus, Christmas presents, a brightly lit pine,
Candy canes and spiced eggnog are all very fine;
Let’s have fun celebrating, but leave not a doubt
That Christ is what Christmas is really about!”
In the last 20 years, “A Visit from the Christ Child” has been frequently reprinted in magazines and church publications (even on the sides of millions of paper grocery bags, in 1992)) and widely posted on the internet. Please join our ongoing crusade to put Christ back in Christmas by circulating “A Visit from the Christ Child” widely. The poem is available online in its entirety here.