Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Reading Material in the 1800s


Christmas Reading Material in the 1800s

The joy of reading to a child or sitting in front of the fire listening to someone's voice tell a story as the snow falls outside and a warm crackling fire inside sounds so wonderful. Without Television or any type of electronics, settlers in the west kept reading material at the ready. It was an enjoyment most little ones and adults looked forward to, especially at the end of a busy day.

In 1823 The Night Before Christmas changed the lives of many as they read the wondrous story written by Clement Clark Moore. The original poem was titled, A Visit From St. Nicholas. It is said this story alone developed the character of Santa Claus to so many. Clement wrote the poem in 1822 and it was said a dear friend of his sent the poem to the New York Sentinel who published the poem on the condition the author would remain anonymous. Finally, in 1843, Clement acknowledged he was the author of the now famous poem. Enjoy this delightful poem:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

Then, a story that to this day is still a favorite all over the world that has many scrambling to read the story or watch the movie during the holidays. A Christmas Carol was written in 1843 by Charles Dickens. The story is an interesting tale and even more interesting is how this book came to be published by a wealthy man who was looking for a way to get the book published by a certain deadline. When his publisher gave him too many demands, he handed them the advance back and published it himself. Most know the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge, but even more so is the story behind the making of this marvelous tale. 

There are many other stories, books and poems that were found in the hands of those who forged westward, but the two above were the most popular then. Others, such as A Cradle Song by William Blake, Christmas Trees by Robert Frost and Christmas At Sea by Robert Louise Stevenson are some other popular reads in the 1800's. 

Do you remember any others? Or, some you may have read from your own childhood?

Christmas stories are wonderful to read and listen to especially around the holidays. I love writing them as well. In this story, I've written about a sheriff who is hurt and doesn't believe he can do his job. His best friend decides to teach him that you don't need to be whole to love and live. 

The setting is the 1800's in a small town called Belle, Wyoming. The ancient Christmas Jingle Bells that hung on the oxen of the founding settler was kept safe and only brought out during the holiday season. This series has 5 stories and during each book there is mention of the bells that have gone missing. It isn't until the last book when we find out what happened to them and who took them. You can find this story on Amazon: A Tin Star for Christmas

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