Twas the Night Before Christmas - 1912 edition of the poem, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith
"A Visit from St. Nicholas", more commonly known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who claimed authorship in 1837.
The poem has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American" and is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. It has had a massive impact on the history of Christmas gift-giving. Before the poem gained wide popularity, American ideas had varied considerably about Saint Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors. "A Visit from St. Nicholas" eventually was set to music and has been recorded by many artists.
"A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "’Twas the Night Before Christmas") was originally published in the Troy Sentinel, on December 23, 1823. It appeared without attribution and continued to do so for the next fourteen years. In 1837, Charles Fenno Hoffman identified his friend Clement Moore as the author of this now widely circulated holiday poem. Henry Livingston, who died in 1828, just five years after the poem first appeared in the Troy newspaper, never claimed authorship either. But by the turn of the century, members of the Livingston clan had begun to publicly insist that he was the one who had actually written it, citing family lore and other possible proofs. The controversy has never been definitively settled, though it's been raised periodically over the years. In 1919, the Dutchess County Historical Society wrote: "A critical comparison of the 'Visit from St. Nicholas' with the acknowledged verses of Henry Livingston adds internal evidence supporting the correctness of the family’s position."