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.
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.
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. 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!