Every year for as long as I can remember my father has read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas: A Visit From St. Nicholas to my siblings and I on Christmas Eve. Yes, even now that I'm over 30.
I think the story sparks a magic about the season and ignites creativity and a sense of wonder for everyone - and can be appreciated by all ages. While the author of the poem was not proved last night at a mock trial, I think that magic touched everyone in the 400-plus crowd...including yours truly.
‘Twas the week before Christmas and many things were stirring. For it seemed the authorship of a favorite holiday poem was a bit blurry.
The attorneys in the “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” case
were most zealous in their stance, with plaintiff Jack Casey and his daughter declaring gentleman farmer Henry Livingston the author. But defendant E. Stewart Jones for widely-accepted penman Clement C. Moore said, “Not a chance.”
While the first publication of the poem being in Troy was not at question, the person behind the classic words - with that, there is some tension.
There were children and seniors and everyone in between. About 400 people came from around the county and country to the festive mock trial scene.
The Rensselaer County Court room, named for Casey’s kin, was filled beyond capacity. In other words, it was filled to the brim.
The first witness was called from the Historical Society of Rensselaer County. Kathryn Sheehan discussed the Dutch influence in the 1823 poem. Her testimony was quite a bounty.
There was “Dunder” versus “Donner” and “Blixem” versus “Blitzen”. Casey brought up the language influence, he was certainly on a mission.
When a green mist arose behind retired Judge Bernard Malone’s seat, a lively and funny and very dead ghost of Henry Livingston the courtroom did meet.
The poem was written for his children he did attest. And soon after the testimony, the Caseys declared that their case did rest.
But Jones had his own surprise for the court to see. He jingled a bell a few times, and the ghost of Moore appeared, much to everyone’s glee.
Moore countered that “Dunder and Blixem” was said often by his Dutch wife. He swore this to the court, and on his now deceased life.
Relatives of the two authors came to represent their clan. Both were adamant that their kin was the man.
Clement’s descendent brought a writing antique from his day, while Livingston’s mentioned that the rhythm of the poem matched up more to what Henry had to say.
A six-person jury was chosen from the large audience and tasked, with coming to a conclusion to once and for all decide if it was Moore or Livingston who would be the true author, unmasked.
In the intermission while a decision was made, a Saxophone Santa provided a lovely serenade.
Once the Santa entertained and was down to his last lung, the jury came out with their verdict: they were hung.
With four in favor of Livingston and two for Moore, the attorneys asked for another shot next year - at least once more.
A fete was held afterward at the nearby Historical Society, where attorneys and jurors and even the ghosts could all come together to party.
Everyone, including the mayor, agreed that the publicity for the city was great, and the entertainment from the actors was a real treat.
As organizer Duncan Crary wished all a Happy Christmas and Good Night, I think in the back of everyone’s mind there were three words for next year: “Round Two: Fight!”