On not heart-ing Clement Moore

Nineteen years ago, the Rev. Roger Ferlo, who is now president of Seabury and Bexley Hall Seminaries, was rector of St. Luke in the Fields in Greenwich Village, a church where Clement Moore, author of A Visit from St. Nicholas, otherwise known by its first line: “Twas the Night Before Christmas” was once senior warden.

Ferlo, as it happens, hates the poem, and when he said so, in an op-ed for the New York Times, it sparked a fierce reaction.

Here’s a taste, but read the whole thing:

His scowling ghost hovers over the place like the nightmare before Christmas. It was in a grand old house like this that he was moved to inflict “A Visit From Saint Nicholas” on a world too willing to like it.

I hate that poem. It’s the kind of thing a middlebrow Episcopal Hebrew professor writes to indulge his sentimental idea of what a Knickerbocker Ward Christmas should look like. No rats stirring; windows with shutters and sashes; St. Nick down the chimney; smug Protestant children snug in their beds; all those silly reindeer; that lousy rhyme scheme. Too much peace and niceness. Left unmentioned are the Irish and Italians who threatened to overwhelm the neighborhood from their noisy enclaves south of Houston Street. A perfectly gentrified Christmas for a newly gentrified neighborhood.

Not in my house.

I grew up Italian Catholic in an upstate working-class town near Utica. We didn’t know from gentry. On the night before Christmas, you sit in a darkened church. A soupy little electric organ plays Silent Night. Everybody kneels, humming along, staring at the creche


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