Holiday reading is something that has been a part of my life since my first chubby baby Christmas so many years ago, and it all began with our annual family reading of “A Visit From St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore.
“‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house …”
How well I know these lines! I could recite it to you now, all the way through the visions of sugarplums, past the round little belly that shakes like a bowl full of jelly, and right up to the Merry Christmas to all …
My father reads to us each year the rhyming tale of St. Nick’s journey, just as his father did before him. In fact, in all my years on this planet, I have not missed a single Christmas Eve reading. It is always read by my dad, and always with the same mistakes that have now become part of the tradition themselves.
These days, he sits on the couch, surrounded by the grandchildren, while we, the new generation of parents, snap photos and murmur amongst ourselves, reminding him where he left off if he loses his place. It just wouldn’t be Christmas in my family without hearing “the story.”
There have been a few years where the book briefly couldn’t be found, which caused a minor panic, even though each of us, down to the person, has the darned thing memorized. Now, we have back-up copies, “just in case.”
The story-telling honor, like a monarchy, has been passed from father to son. Some day, when Pops hangs up his reading glasses, my brother will take over as CST – Chief Story Teller. As the father of all girls however, he will have to take a cue from the Royal Family, and allow girls to occupy the top office, so that his daughter may one day take over for him as well.
In addition to giving us a reason to gather on Dec. 24, this poetic piece has provided an easy grade to a few of us over the years. When I was in 6th grade, our Oral Expression teacher assigned the tale as one of our presentations. Since the poem was so lengthy, it was not required to memorize the whole thing. You could learn one third for a C, two thirds for a B, or attempt to get it all down for an A. Clearly, he didn’t know who he was dealing with – it was the easiest A I ever made! In fact, I did so well, that I went on tour, presenting my version to the Special Ed classes for their holiday enjoyment.
My son used the reading as his project for the 1st grade “holiday traditions” presentation, complete with a poster showcasing some blackmail-worthy pictures of yours truly listening to the book in years past. (How many times do I have to explain that it was THE ’80s, people?! Everyone wore their hair like that!)
Whatever we have looked like while doing it, it is the one thing that has defined my family’s holiday, since before I was even a part of it. Through marriages, divorces, the passing of my mother, and subsequent joining of our family by my stepmom, it is the constant that has refused to change.
We all know where we will be on the Night Before Christmas. The sofa may change, the hairstyles may look different as the decades come and go, but the words, the love and warmth, and the family will remain the same.
So from my family to yours, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Good Night!”