10 Myths About Christmas

Clement C. Moore Wrote "Twas the Night Before Christmas"
Regardless of its origins, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" has become a Christmas classic. White Packert/The Image Bank/Getty Images

How many of us snuggle with family members every Christmas season to read "A Visit from St. Nicholas," aka "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"? This poem has been popular since it was first published in New York's Troy Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823 [source: Conradt].

The poem was published anonymously, and it wasn't until 1836 that someone stepped forward as the author: Clement Clarke Moore, a professor and poet. According to Moore, he wrote the poem for his kids, and later, unbeknownst to him, his housekeeper sent it to the newspaper. But once Moore claimed to be the author, members of the Henry Livingston Jr. family cried foul, saying their dad had been reciting the very same poem to them a full 15 years before it was published. Livingston, interestingly, was a distant relative of Moore's wife [sources: Conradt, Why Christmas].

Who was telling the truth? At least four of Livingston's kids, and one neighbor, said they remembered him reciting the poem as early as 1807. He was also part Dutch, and many references in the poem are, too. Plus scholars who studied Moore's other written works say they're all vastly different in structure and content from "A Visit from St. Nicholas." But Moore did claim authorship first. He was also friends with Washington Irving, who knew all about Dutch culture and had previously written about St. Nicholas [sources: Howse, Conradt]. Add all these clues together and the question of the famous poem's authorship is still up in the air.