Uncommon Knowledge

Uncommon Knowledge: Was the Night Before Christmas a Shuttered Affair?

December 15, 2015

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‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house…Clements Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” paints a picture of a holiday house as quaint as a Currier and Ives scene. But have you ever wondered what house might have inspired the setting? The poem actually offers a clue in its description of the window treatment, of all things:

Away to the window I flew like a flash,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Hold on, Santa—shutters and then sash? That means the shutters in this house are on the inside. Shutters, both exterior and interior, were common in early nineteenth century houses when the poem debuted, but the interior shutters suggest one mansion in particular: Constable Hall in Northern New York. Turns out that Moore was a cousin of the lady of the house, Mary Eliza Constable, and he visited her there. So Constable Hall is a likely candidate for the house St. Nicholas visited that snowy Christmas Eve. But to be fair, in the days before Santa Tracker, his route was anybody’s guess.

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