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