Winter Fun Guide

Live Webcast: Troy’s Mock Trial to Determine Who Wrote “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”

Will the people of Troy ever learn which local man wrote “’Twas the Night Before Christmas?” Only a live trial can determine the truth in this 177-year-old debate


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trial before christmas posterIllustration by Ben Karis-Nix of Troy Cloth and Paper

We all know the poem “’Twas the Night Before Christmas.” But did you know it was first published in Troy — and might have been written by a Valley native? 

The original version, called “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” and which first appeared in the Troy Sentinel on December 23, 1823, was published anonymously. In 1837, Manhattan resident Clement Clarke Moore identified himself as the author and has been given the credit ever since. But the story doesn’t stop there. Decedents of Henry Livingston Jr., a farmer who was born in Poughkeepsie, vehemently proclaimed him the writer, and the debate has raged ever since.

Last year, the City of Troy staged a mock trial — complete with attorneys, a stenographer, court officers, a court clerk, and jury — during its annual Victorian Stroll to determine which of the two men was the true author. The result? A hung jury. 

Because there was no verdict — and because the event drew a crowd of 500 and tons of media attention — a second trial takes place on December 7 at the Rensselaer County Court House at 2 p.m. The original legal teams are back and ready to battle on behalf of the gentlemen, giving spectators a taste of a real courtroom experience — not counting the saxophone-playing Santa and his elf who entertain the audience during the jury’s deliberation.

Those who are unable to attend the event can watch the live webcast here (or below). The video will also be posted at www.christmastrial.com after the event takes place.

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