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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December 23, 1823

'Twas the eve before Christmas Eve, and all through the blog, a writer was stirring, his mind beginning to jog. 

It was another new day, Day #23, of THE POP CULTURE ADDICT'S ADVENT CALENDAR, you see.

The stockings have nothing to do with today, but we're doing another Timeline post this Tuesday.

And the theme of this blog is quite inviting, as we pay tribute to a piece of holiday writing.

Before we do that, we must pay our dues , to celebrity birthdays and happenings in the news.

So sit right back as we begin to remember, the other events of the 23rd of December...

679 - While on a hunting excursion, King Dagobert II of Austrasia is murdered

1783 - George Washington resigns as commander-in-chief of the Continental State Army

1893 - The opera "Hansel and Gretel" - written by Engelbert Humperdinck (the playwright, not the 1970's era singer) - first opens

1913 - The Federal Reserve System is created with the signing of the Federal Reserve Act by President Woodrow Wilson

1916 - The Battle of Magdhaba takes place at Egypt's Sinai Peninsula during World War I

1919 - The Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919 becomes law in the United Kingdom

1938 - The discovery of the first modern coelacanth in South Africa

1941 - The Imperial Japanese Army occupies Wake Island during World War II after fifteen days of combat

1947 - The transistor is first demonstrated at Bell Laboratories

1954 - The first successful kidney transplant is performed by Joseph Murray and J. Hartwell Harrison

1958 - Tokyo Tower is dedicated

1968 - After eleven months of internment in North Korea, 82 soldiers from the USS Pueblo are released

1970 - Completion of the North Tower of the former World Trade Center in New York City - at that time, it was the tallest building in the world

1971 - Actor Corey Haim (d. 2010) is born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1972 - After 73 days, the sixteen survivors of the Andes flight disaster are finally rescued

1979 - Kabul, Afghanistan is occupied by Soviet forces

2000 - Comedian and pianist Victor Borge dies at the age of 91

2010 - Parts of Queensland, Australia are flooded following a monsoonal trough

And for celebrity birthdays, we have the following people blowing out candles today; Robert Bly, Ronnie Schell, Barney Rosenzweig, John Peterman, Harry Shearer, Wesley Clark, Susan Lucci, Adrian Belew, Carol Ann Duffy, Trisha Goddard, Joan Severance, Jim Harbaugh, Jess Harnell, Eddie Vedder, Carla Bruni, Lucy Bell, Quincy Jones III, Manuel Rivera-Ortiz, Greg Biffle, Martha Byrne, Catriona Le May Doan, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Christian Potenza, Lady Starlight, Matt Baker, Jodie Marsh, Holly Madison, Harry Judd, and Anna Maria Perez de Tagle.

All right.  So, what date will we visit today? 

How about we go back in time almost 200 years?

No, that is not a typo.  We will be going back to December 23, 1823 in what is the oldest date this Tuesday Timeline feature has legitimately visited (I don't count that 8th century spin from April Fools Day, as that was completely fabricated).

You probably may have noticed that I began today's blog entry with a bit of a rhyme.  This was absolutely intentional.  For it was on this date - hold on, let me get my calculator out, I am horrible at math - 191 years ago today - that a particular poem was first published.

And let me tell you something about this poem.  It is probably one of the most famous poems ever written about the holiday season.  It was also responsible for the world seeing Santa Claus in a whole new light because the way that the poem described him painted a vivid portrait of who Santa was.  I suppose you could say that the poem set the precedent for the amount of Santa Claus images found on television, movies, gift wrap, and gift tags.

But here's the kicker.  Although the poem was published in 1823, it was done so anonymously.  It wasn't until fourteen years later that the author finally came forward.  A man by the name of Clement Clarke Moore finally fessed up to writing the poem in 1837, and he has been given full credit ever since.  He had written the poem during a shopping trip on a typical winter's day, and he initially did not want to have his name published with the poem because he felt that it would take away from his reputation as a professor.  His children convinced him to take the credit.  After all, he did write the poem for them!

Now, when the poem was first published, it was not under the title that most of us know it as.  The original title of the piece was "A Visit From St. Nicholas".  But most of us probably know it better as the title that stemmed from the very first line of the poem.

Perhaps you might know it if I say "The Night Before Christmas". 

Let's did Clement Clarke Moore's piece go again?  Oh, yes.  I remember now.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there

The children were nestled, all snug in their beds
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads
And Mama in her 'kerchief', and I in my cap
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap

When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter
Away to the window I flew like a flash
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer

With a little old driver, so lively and quick
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name

"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer, and Vixen
On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky
So up to the house-top, the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys - and St. Nicholas too

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof
As I drew in my head, and was turning around
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound

He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot
And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot
A bundle of toys was flung on his back
And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack

His eyes - how they twinkled! His dimples; how merry
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf
And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread

He spoke not a word but went straight to his work
And fill'd all the stockings, then turn'd with a jerk
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team he gave a whistle
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

And to think that it was published exactly 191 years ago today.  Isn't it funny how some Christmas traditions begin, and isn't it wonderful to know that these traditions remain nearly two centuries later?

Do stay tuned for Day #24 in the calendar...where on the eve before Christmas, I share some thoughts and feelings - whether you want to hear them or not!

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