On Christmas Eve 1822, Catherine Elizabeth Moore was preparing food for the poor and discovered that she was short one turkey. It turned out to be a fortunate mistake, because as her husband rode in his carriage to the butcher's, the bells jingling on his team of horses inspired him to pen a whimsical Christmas poem for his children. After dinner that night, Clement Clarke Moore presented to the family what has become a treasure to us all: "'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…." And as he read, his children were enchanted.
Since that day, this classic has appeared in countless newspapers and almanacs; it has been recited, illustrated, and performed around the world. Most important, countless youngsters have cozied up on the lap of a parent or grandparent and read of a "miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer."
Clement Moore was a prominent theologian, a professor of classics, and the author of the leading Hebrew dictionary of the time. But that Christmas Eve, he wasn't writing for publication or praise. This poem about a jolly old elf, sugarplums, and carefully hung stockings was for his family. Perhaps his inspiration came from his love for his small audience. Perhaps it was his way of showing his children what a gift of the heart looks and feels like.
Each of us can give such priceless gifts of the heart. Our gifts may not rhyme, sparkle, or come wrapped in ribbons, but they will be cherished. Cards made at the kitchen table, pictures taken at the last family gathering, handprints of toddlers, recordings of childhood reminiscences, homemade ornaments that promise years of fond memories in their own priceless way, these and many other expressions of love say, as did Clement Moore's gift to his children, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."