CAZENOVIA — The Cazenovia Public Library & Museum (CPL) will ring in the holiday season on Tuesday, Nov. 28, with a presentation exploring the history and lore surrounding “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” the classic poem more commonly known as “The Night Before Christmas” and “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.”
This year marks the 200th anniversary of the poem, which is attributed to Clement Clarke Moore (1779–1863) and was instrumental in crafting the modern American version of Santa Claus.
“What a lot of people may not realize is its connection to Upstate New York,” said CPL Adult Programming and Service Coordinator Renee Joseph. “Clement Moore was a cousin to Mary Eliza McVickar Constable, the first lady of Constable Hall located in Constableville, New York.”
Constable Hall is a historic house museum in the Adirondack Tug Hill Region of Lewis County.
The Federal-style limestone mansion was built between 1810 and 1819 by Mary Eliza’s husband, William Constable Jr., who died prematurely in 1821.
After William’s death, Moore visited the widowed Mary Eliza and her children at Constable Hall many times.
According to the lore of the Constable family, Moore’s visits to the estate were the inspiration for his celebrated poem.
“[The connection to the poem] is an important part of the family history,” said Constable Hall Executive Director Loraine O’Donnell. “Moore and Mary Eliza were very close. He would visit often, especially after her husband was injured and then died. During that time, Moore spent holidays with her and her five small children, reading the poem to the Constable children. It’s an important story that speaks of the love and support of family, especially at Christmas and holidays. At the hall, we have a letter he wrote to her for Christmas and a chess set that he gave her.”
During the upcoming CPL event, attendees can step back in time as they listen to O’Donnell, dressed in character as Mary Eliza, recount the lore surrounding the famous poem.
“The family agrees that [Moore] wrote the poem for his own children,” said O’Donnell. “However, his poem has pieces that match the Constable family home and grounds perfectly. . . . For example, the interior shutters on every window of the house.”
In his poem, Moore says the narrator “Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.” According to O’Donnell, Moore’s guest room at Constable Hall had a window with interior shutters and looked out over an expansive lawn, where family lore says he pictured Santa and his sleigh.
O’Donnell added that family lore also says Moore’s description of St. Nick was based on a Dutch gardener who lived on the Constable estate at the time the poet visited.
The presentation will start at 6 p.m. in the Betsy Kennedy Community Room and is free and open to the public.
Constable Hall is located at 5909 John St. in Constableville. To learn more about the historic home, visit constablehall.org.