Saturday, 29 November 2008


The Episcopal church of St Luke-in-the-Fields on Hudson Street between Christopher and Barrow Streets, has close ties with the current popular conception of Santa Claus. On October 22nd, 1820, Clement Clarke Moore with a small group of residents of the riverfront village of Greenwich organised an Episcopal church for their growing community and named it after St. Luke, the physician evangelist, in recognition of the village's role as a refuge from the yellow fever epidemics that plagued New York City during the summers.

Clement Clarke Moore, a wealthy landowner and gentleman scholar of biblical Hebrew and Greek penned the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas" and "Twas the night before Christmas" which was first published anonymously in 1823. It is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus from the mid-19th century to today, including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and that he brings toys to chidren. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas, and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United Stated to the rest of the Anglosphere and the world.

Cover of a 1912 edition of the poem, illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith

'Twas the night before Christmas

when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse

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