Sunday, July 14, 2013

Happy Birthday Clement C. Moore - July 15

Happy Birthday Clement C. Moore - July 15

Ho! Ho! Ho! Happy Christmas in July!

I can't believe that it was 15 years ago that I decided to throw my first Christmas in July party to bring together all of my college friends that I so dearly missed over the summer break. I prepared a Christmas-style feast of roasted chicken and my mom's holiday mashed potatoes, baked and decorated Christmas cut-out cookies, and planned a gift exchange. This tradition lasted only two years, but I have many great memories of those parties. This July, I hoped to create Christmas-like memories in the middle of July for my children.
Christmas in July 1998
Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas that is now more widely known as 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. Moore enjoyed writing poetry for his children, but this poem was memorable because he read it to them on Christmas Eve in 1822.  According to Project Gutenberg, Moore read it to them "just after they hung up their stockings before one of the big fireplaces in their house." The poem was anonymously published the following Christmas season by someone close to the family, in an out of town paper. (Clement Clarke Moore: Reluctant Mythmaker, David Emery). Moore didn't publicly acknowledge that he wrote the poem for many years and it took until 1844 for him to include it in an anthology of his poetry. Amazingly, a poem that Moore wrote for his children to enjoy and recite is now read as a tradition by countless families every December.

One night this week, I slid a picture book version of The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore at the bottom of the stack of books we were reading before bedtime.  When I read the title, my oldest son said, "Why are we reading this book? It's not Christmas." I ignored his comment because I feared that I would say something that would reveal my intentions for reading the book on this seemly ordinary night in July. No further questions came as they were distracted by completing the rhymes in each stanza as I read the book not just once, but twice.
Once all the children were nestled all snug in their beds, my wife and I put up our Christmas tree and wrapped a few presents for each of our children. Many of the gifts were summertime toys like water balloons, squirt guns, and bubbles.  However, there were a few bigger gifts that we were sure our older children had spotted when we tried to sneak them into our cart after finding them on clearance. We thought it was better to give them those presents now instead of on Christmas Day.
I can't say "not a creature was stirring not even a mouse" in our house on this night. The truth is that I can't believe my children didn't wake when I got the tree out from under the steps in the basement. The box containing the tree was tucked in the back and under all of the Easter, Halloween, and Thanksgiving books and decorations!  It must of been those visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads that kept them sleeping as I lugged the enormous and awkward box up the steps.
At about 6am, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.  It was my youngest daughter awake in her crib before the sun was up. I brought her out into the living room to show her the Christmas tree. She loved the construction paper stockings that we hung on the windows with care.
I love this photo! You wouldn't know it is July.
She couldn't wait for the rest of the family to open her presents.
The boys woke up next and said, "Why is the Christmas tree up, Dad?" 
I love that my wife and I were able to pull off this surprise!
This smile made lugging the Christmas tree box up the steps completely worth it!
He couldn't believe that he was getting new toys!
My oldest daughter woke up after everyone else had opened their presents. She was quite excited to receive the baton that she spotted at the store a few days earlier!
We had special Christmas-style breakfast feast too! Pancakes!
I bet my children will be saying next July, "Can we celebrate Clement C. Moore's birthday again this year?"

Until then, Happy Christmas in July to all, and to all a good night!

1. Biography - Wikipedia
2. Activity Extension idea - Scholastic
3. Christmas in July information - Wikipedia
4. Read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore with picture by Jessie Wilcox Smith - Project Gutenberg

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