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History Corner By Pat Ross & Fran Snead


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December 01, 2016

Even though the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was originally entitled “A Visit from St. Nicholas” and written in 1823, it still remains today one of the most popular stories shared around the holidays for children both young and old.  It was first published in an upstate New York Newspaper, Troy Sentinel, with the author remaining anonymous.  There remains lots of mystery surrounding who actually wrote the original version, but the poem itself helped to navigate the way the holiday is celebrated today.  Not until the publishing of the poem had St. Nicholas ever been associated with a sleigh or a reindeer.  And even the names of the reindeer were all due to the poem itself. 

 

An editor at the Troy Sentinel paper is said to have made roughly twenty-one changes in his editing of the poem in 1830.  Some of his editing includes arranging the names of the reindeer in a so-called rhythm that is used in songs and movies that are still enjoyed today.  Another edit of his was the changing of Blixen’s name from its original Blixem.  There are many variations of this classic poem that have been written throughout the years. “A Genealogist’s Christmas”, “A Teacher’s Night Before Christmas”, and the “Pet’s Night Before Christmas” are just a few of the most popular ones. 

 

One that seems to be fitting since we just celebrated Veteran’s Day and we now have the bench commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the DMZ Conflict and the Korean War and Conflict on the grounds of the Center, is the poem below entitled “The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas”.  This particular version is credited to a United States soldier stationed overseas in the early ‘90s forced to spend the holidays away from his family.  Without providing any more detail about the author, I will let the words speak for themselves.

 

                                            The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas

                                Twas the night before Christmas, he lived all alone,

                                In a one bedroom house made of plaster and stone.

                                I had come down the chimney with presents to give

                                And to see just who in this home did live.

 

                                I looked all about, a strange sight I did see

                                No tinsel, no presents, not even a tree.

                                No stocking by the fire, just boots filled with sand,

                                On the wall hung pictures of far distant lands.

 

                                With medals and badges, awards of all kind

                                A sober thought came through my mind.

                                For this house was different, so dark and dreary,

                                 I knew I had found the home of a soldier, once I could see clearly.

 

                                I heard stories about them, I had to see more

                                So I walked down the hall and pushed open the door.

                                And there he lay sleeping silent alone,

                                Curled up on the floor in his one bedroom home.

 

                                His face so gentle, his room in such disorder

                                Not how I pictured a United States soldier.

                                Was this the hero of whom I’d just read?

                                Curled up in his poncho, a floor for his bed?

 

                                His head was clean shaven, his weathered face tan,

                                I soon understood this was more than a man.

                                For I realized the families that I saw that night

                                Owed their lives to these men who were willing to fight.

 

                                Soon ‘round the world, the children would play,

                                And grownups would celebrate on a bright Christmas day.

                                They all enjoyed freedom each month of the year,

                                Because of soldiers like this one lying here.

 

                                I couldn’t help wonder how many lay alone

                                On a cold Christmas Eve in a land far from home.

                                Just the very thought brought a tear to my eye,

                                I dropped to my knees and started to cry.

 

                                The soldier awakened and I heard a rough voice,

                                “Santa don’t cry, this life is my choice;

                                I fight for freedom, I don’t ask for more,

                                My life is my God, my country, my Corps.”

 

                                With that he rolled over and drifted off to sleep,

                                I couldn’t control it, I continued to weep.

                                I watched him for hours, so silent and still,

                                I noticed he shivered from the cold night’s chill.

 

                                So I took off my jacket, the one made of red,

                                And I covered this Soldier from his toes to his head.

                                And I put on his T-shirt of gray and black,

                                With an eagle and an Army patch embroidered on back.

 

                                And although it barely fit me, I began to swell with pride,

                                And for a shining moment, I was United States Army deep inside.

                                I didn’t want to leave him on that cold dark night,

                                This guardian of honor so willing to fight.

 

                                Then the soldier rolled over, whispered with a voice so clean and pure,

                                “Carry on Santa, it’s Christmas Day, all is secure.”

                                One look at my watch, and I knew he was right,

                                Merry Christmas my friend, and to all a good night!

 

Thank you to all who serve and to their families for sacrifices made.  We appreciate so very much your service!

 Fran Snead










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