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A modern-day visit from St. Nick


For 13 years, former editor and publisher Richard Coltharp devoted space in each Bulletin before Christmas to reprinting Clement Clarke Moore’s classic Christmas poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” It is among the most familiar works of verse by an American author and helped define the character of Santa Claus after it appeared in 1823. Coltharp encouraged readers to share this story, in which a father witnesses “St. Nick” coming down the chimney to deliver presents to the household, with their own children.

In appreciation of Richard, who left the Bulletin last week, as well as the poem’s bicentennial, for my first contribution to this page I offer this adaptation, depicting a Christmas Moore could not have imagined (nor Henry Livingston, Jr., who some scholars argue was the actual author).

‘Twas a wireless Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house
The children wore airpods and so did my spouse.
Their faces, untouched by the twinkling tree,
Were lit up instead by their flickering screens.

My kids were fighting a ‘battle royale’
While mama was streaming a Christmas chorale
When all of them yelled, in a furious clamor,
And I set down my book to ask what was the matter.

They gravely intoned, every face in a pout,
That our household’s WiFi had suddenly gone out.
With nothing to do, their joys having fled,
The family marched mournfully off to their beds.

I sipped some hot chocolate, admiring the tree,
Recalling past Christmases and childhood glee,
When out in the yard I heard a peculiar sound
And opened the window for a quick look around.

What I saw was surely some holiday trick!
Could that really be reindeer, a sleigh and Saint Nick?
He saw me and grinned, waving a small grey box
With which he turned off our WiFi, like turning a lock.

I let him inside right through the front
As he lugged his red sack with a spirited grunt.
His eyes were twinkly, his cheeks were flushed pink,
His forehead was wrinkly as he threw me a wink.

He opened his bag as I watched with surprise
The most magical thing I could have surmised!
Like prancing reindeer, the toys leapt out
From his sack and began jumping about:

A riot of puzzles, candies, animals from a zoo,
Books, yo-yos, games, musical instruments too,
Puppets, paints and beautiful pens,
Play ovens, marbles, Barbies and Kens —

And not one of these, I happily report,
Took batteries or had a USB port.
The internet, he whispered, would be down for one day,
And he winked again, continuing on his way.

I let him out and he sprang to his team,
A silhouette of reindeer in moonlight’s gleam.
And I heard him exclaim while his sleigh made its climb:
“Happy Christmas to all! May you spend it off-line!”