Ad-Express and Daily Iowegian, Centerville, IA


December 23, 2011

A children’s poem becomes tradition

EXLINE — Well, Christmas is just about here. I hope everyone is ready for the big celebration. This month seemed to go by rather quickly.

A relative of mine gave me the recipe for this week and she said a friend gave it to her. The friend makes this for her family for breakfast on Christmas morning. It sounds pretty good.

Christmas French Toast


1/2 lb. of butter (two sticks)

1/2 c. brown sugar

1 loaf Texas Toast bread

Custard batter:

2 c. milk or milk nog

5 eggs

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp. vanilla

To make the caramel sauce:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Heat the butter and brown sugar in the  oven until melted. Once it is melted, remove from oven and blend together.

Lay out enough slices of the Texas Toast bread to cover a Jelly Roll pan. Then set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the milk, eggs, cinnamon and vanilla together with a wire whisk. Pour the caramel sauce on the bottom of the Jelly Roll baking pan and spread around. Then, take the slices of bread and dredge them in the custard batter. Put the batter dipped slices of bread back on the Jelly Roll pan.

Once the pan is full of dipped bread, bake it in the oven approximately 15-120 minutes until the bottom of the bread is a golden brown and the top of the bread is no longer moist.

While the baked bread is still hot, remove it from the baking pan and flip over onto a serving plate so the caramel topping is on top. Serve while still warm.

With the arrival of Christmas this weekend, it should be remembered that one of the most famous poems ever penned was compiled by Clement Clarke Moore back is 1822 for the Christmas holiday.

Clement Moore was born on July 15, 1779 in New York City. He was a professor of Oriental and Greek literature at Columbia College, which is now Columbia University. It was said he was a staid and reserved man.

Over the years he had quite a few technical books published on various subjects that were related to what he taught as a professor.

Moore was a family man and lived at his estate called Chelsea. It was located on the west side of Manhattan in New York City on land that had belonged to his maternal grandfather who was a veteran of he French and Indian War. He lived there with his wife, Catherine Elizabeth Taylor, and their children.

The poem he wrote was intended for the private enjoyment of his children. It was originally called “T’was the Night Before Christmas.” The story has also been referred to as “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

His idea for St. Nicholas became the basis for the modern day version of Santa Claus. He came up with the idea of old St. Nicholas bringing gifts to the children on Christmas Eve along with a sleigh full of toys and the eight tiny reindeer and their names. The original penned version of the tale referred to two of the reindeer as being named Donder and Blitzen, which in German means Thunder and Lightning.

Moore’s version of the jolly old elf wan influenced by a character portrayed as a Dutch Burgher by Washington Irving who was popular in the Hudson Valley. This tradition was brought to America by the Dutch settlers from Europe. Irving’s Dutch Sinteklaes was depicted in his writing, “A History of New York” that was published in 1809 under the pen name of Dietrich Knickerbocker.

Because the poem was intended for his family, Moore did not want to have it published. A friend named Miss H. Butler sent a copy of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the New York Sentinel newspaper in Troy, N.Y. It was requested that the author of the poem was not to be disclosed. It appeared in print for the first time in the Dec. 23, 1823 edition. As soon as it was released it became an instant success with the public.

After realizing the appeal of the writing, Moore eventually stepped forward and took credit for penning the famous verse.

At the urging of his children, is appeared in a book he had published of an anthology of his works in 1844. He did not consider the poem to be on the same level as his more scholarly works.

It has even been alleged that Moore did not write the poem. Some scholars claim a distant relative of Moore’s wife Catherine, known as Henry Livingston, Jr., may have written the famous verse. But in the end, Clement Moore is still given credit for writing the most famous Christmas poem of all time.

After his long professional career, Clement Moore died at his summer residence in Newport, R.I. on July 10, 1863 at the age of 83. He was originally buried in Newport, but on Nov. 29, 1899 his body was moved and reburied in the Trinity Churchyard Cemetery in New York.

A park is named in his honor in New York City called Clement Clarke Moore Park. It was opened on Nov. 22, 1968 and in 1995 the park underwent restoration with new playground equipment being installed along with other improvements.

Each year on the last Sunday of Advent, local residents gather and read, “T’was the Night Before Christmas” in his honor at the park.

Even though it has been 189 years after the renowned poem was written, many families also gather at this time of year at home and enjoy reading this famous tale. And like the story goes, “I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight — Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.”

On Thursday morning, Dec. 22 at 12:30 a.m., eastern standard time, the first day of winter officially began in the northern hemisphere. It is known as the Winter Solstice and it is when the sun reaches its southern most point in the sky. The day is the shortest day of the year, with the longest hours of night. From then on, the days will slowly begin to lengthen as we head towards spring.

If you have friends and family visiting at your house for Christmas and New Years or any other get togethers over the holidays, you may have that kind of local news placed in this Exline Column. Just write the particulars down on a piece of paper and drop it in the Exline News box by the back door of our house on Main Street.

Last Saturday, the Royal Neighbors of America, Exline Chapter 3000 hosted a Christmas party for the residents at the Centerville Nursing an Rehab. Then on Monday, they took holiday baked goods to the people at the Golden Age Manor in Centerville to spread some holiday cheer.

This past Sunday, the Candlelight Christmas Service was held at the Exline Church of Christ at 6 p.m. with a nice turn our on hand for the service.

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The Iowegian wants readers to think about food prices. Are you paying more than you were last year for certain food items? According to a survey by the American Farm Bureau Federation, "the cost of 16 food items" increased by 3.5 over 2013, as reported by the Des Moines Register. So, the question of the week is, "Are you feeling the food price increase pinch?"

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