"Twas the night before Christmas,"

those classic lines we all know,

starts the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas

penned by Clement C. Moore in his NYC abode.

That's right, it was written right here

in jolly old New York!

First published anonymously in 1823,

it landed with the pop of a cork.

***

It's not just any old poem

that people recite nostalgically,

in many ways it's the foundation

of the Santa Claus mythology.

The way we imagine that plump fellow,

whose beard is white as snow,

is a credit to the poem's legacy

and its picturesque afterglow.

Scholars still debate the poem's origin—

did Moore or Major Henry Livingston Jr. write it so?—

it's a controversy for the ages,

an historical fandango.

There's no less than nine paragraphs

devoted to it on Wikipedia,

this Christmas mystery for the ages

could drive a sane man to academia.

***

But down at 314 West 22nd Street

there's no controversy at all,

Moore's Chelsea apartment has been landmarked—

on a plaque of gold "Twas The Night" is scrawled.

Barb Salzman has been living there

since 2005 happily,

and has recently taken to putting up the poem

to delight the close-knit neighborhood tastefully.

She prints out each page of the poem

and displays it outside her brownstone,

underneath a sparkly peace sign,

as a tribute to a legend homegrown.

Salzman and her fiancee Dave Comee

first put it up five years ago.

But on Instagram this year it's been met

with particularly jubilant gusto.

***

Now we pause our holiday rhyme

to ask Salzman a question just because:

Why do they celebrate this tradition

when she doesn't even believe in Santa Claus?

"Technically I'm Jewish, it's not even my holiday,"

she told Gothamist over the phone.

"It's a really nice thing to do."

And that's nothing to bemoan.

***

She said, "I think if you ever get a chance

to spread a little peace and joy,

you get it back tenfold,"

and, she added, this was no ploy.

"So there's no motivation behind this,

[except] to make people happy.

It's become a neighborhood staple."

And there's nothing wrong with being a little sappy.

I asked if she knew of the controversy

involving the poem's biographical cohesion.

She said it wouldn't be that funny

if the building were landmarked for no reason.

She said, "Repairs are a total nightmare.

You have to keep your wood windows which are a mess.

A lot of very funny rules all because of this [poem],"

I did not disagree, I confess.

***

So if you want to see the poem

displayed with so much care

it'll be up at least through the New Year,

with tiny trees, stockings, and other fanfare.

So Happy Christmas to all,

let's end this the traditional way,

not by wishing to all a good night,

but with a reading by Michael Bublé.