A Visit From St. Nicholas

#WorldWatercolorGroup - Day 22 - Christmas Stocking with Toys - Doodlewash

When I was a child, the Christmas season just wasn’t complete without reading the poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, originally titled A Visit From St. Nicholas. While making this illustration for today’s prompt, my mind immediately thought of the familiar line, “The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,” but I chose to paint what comes next. The poem was first published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel in New York on December 23, 1823. A woman attending one of Moore’s parties had copied down the poem while at his home and taken it to the newspaper. While many do believe the poem was found in Moore’s home, the actual authorship of the poem still remains a bit of a debate. Moore didn’t claim authorship until 1844 and many believe the poem was written instead by Henry Livingston Jr. In the end, we may never quite know for sure, but one thing is certain. The poem has become a classic icon that has endured for nearly 200 years now to become the world’s most famous Christmas poem.  

I find little bits of trivia like this so fascinating, and in a way, it makes me love the poem even more. It seems perfectly fitting that a story about seeing the ever elusive Santa Claus in person would come with a shroud of mystery of its own. As a kid, I would barely be able to sleep the night before Christmas, riddled with anticipation and determined I might be as lucky as the narrator of that poem. For me, though I knew Santa was the guy in charge of the gifts, it was still all about the reindeer. I’ve always preferred animals to people, they so seldom disappoint you. And these were animals that could fly through the air! The thought was exhilarating! I would be there in my bed, listening intently to see if I could hear “The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.” There were some years I was completely convinced I had heard just that, but it was, more likely, the gusty winter wind deceptively brushing the limbs of a tree against the roof.

As I grew older, the idea of flying reindeer simply became a wistful story of my youth. I don’t remember the year exactly, but there was that one less notable Christmas when I didn’t wait up for Santa Claus anymore. I was too old for such things, though still very much a child. It’s a wonder how we spend our youth wanting to get older only to achieve it and suddenly wish to have it the other way around. These days, I realize that you can have it both ways. That little boy who so desperately wanted to see reindeer fly is still there if I choose to let him dream. This is the season that reminds me of all the joy I felt when life seemed far less complex. For kids, it’s not really about belief, that’s an entirely adult notion. It’s about getting so caught up in a story that you simply want it to be true. And so in that moment, it is true. The lovely intersection where imagination and dreams meet. The magical place that, even today, as I go to sleep on Christmas Eve, will still make me long for eight tiny reindeer and a visit from St. Nicholas.

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About the Doodlewash

Da Vinci Paint Co.: Quinacridone Red, Quinacridone Gold, Da Vinci Yellow, Leaf Green, Cobalt Turquoise, Terra Cotta, Cobalt Blue and Payne’s Gray.  Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book.
 #WorldWatercolorGroup - Day 22 - Christmas Stocking with Toys - Doodlewash

Creator of Doodlewash® and founder of World Watercolor Month™ (July) and World Watercolor Group™. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!

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21 Comments
  1. Sandra Strait 6 months ago

    I can just see Moore & Livingston deciding to keep the authorship a mystery just because it seemed fitting for the Christmas season. I wish my stockings were full of thing as cool as the one in your painting. It’s beautifully done and exactly what Christmas stockings should be!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sandra! 😃💕 Yeah, I love to think the two conspired… hehe… nothing like a bit more magic and intrigue at the holidays!

  2. June Hadaway 6 months ago

    I love the way you portrayed the stocking. And tge toys are darling especially the tiny bear. Makes me want to go back in time.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Thanks so much, June! 😃💕 Yeah, I often wish I could go back in time! hehe… but I least I can a bit in these posts!

  3. Pamela Smith 6 months ago

    I love all the toys coming out of the stocking and the trivia is so fun…

  4. Sharon Nolfi 6 months ago

    I love this painting! It captures the magic of a stocking’s contents just discovered!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Thanks so much, Sharon! 😃💕 It was a bit of an experiment as it’s mostly imagined without references.

  5. Susan Cuss 6 months ago

    Who wouldn’t love a stocking like this, filled with wonderful toys! Beautifully painted, Charlie!

  6. Susan Cuss 6 months ago

    I hadn’t known that the authorship of the poem was in question. Thanks Charlie!

  7. Sharon Bonin-Pratt 6 months ago

    This is another of your very thoughtful posts, Charlie, one to make me think for hours about past dreams and future possibilities and all the stops in between. I love the idea of the tree limbs brushing against the house – or maybe it is your dreams coming true, clickety click.

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Aww I’m so happy you liked this one, Sharon! 😃💕 hehe… I guess we’ll never know for sure about those tree limbs. But I like to think it was a dream come true.

  8. Rod Fletcher 6 months ago

    The boot is clearly a child’s cornucopia…. to drift back to last month.

  9. Jennifer McLean 6 months ago

    Every evening, you’re little story makes me smile. Merry Christmas Charlie. Remember to leave some carrots out. ;o)

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Aww I’m so happy to hear that, Jennifer! 😃💕 And yes!! hehe… I’ll have to see if I can still some from the fridge and hope they weren’t meant for dinner. 😊

  10. Lovely & Merry! What are you doing with your paintings, Charlie? Illustrating books, preparing exhibitions, selling your art, making post cards… please let us know! Merry Christmas!

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Thanks so much, Violeta! Merry Christmas to you as well! 😃💕 My one New Year’s resolution is to begin selling my art in some form, just figuring out the form! lol The illustrated cookbook will be out in January and thinking of a storybook that might come next. 😉

      • Fantastic New Year’s resolution! I’m looking forward to your first publications in 2018. Merry Christmas 💕

  11. Mama Cormier 6 months ago

    What a lovely story. This is the type of history I find fascinating. I had no idea about the origins of the poem. Over the years I’ve also read the story to my children and now my granddaughter. Merry Christmas, Charlie and all the best in the New Year. Carol

    • Author
      Charlie O'Shields 6 months ago

      Thanks so much, Carol! 😃💕 Glad you enjoy trivia and mysteries like this as well. I find them so fascinating. Hope you and yours have a very Merry Christmas and amazing New Year!

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