“‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” is an age-old story that has become a Christmas Eve tradition for many, and a handwritten copy of the beloved tale is on display at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John.

The poem, by Clement Clarke Moore, was originally titled “A Visit from Saint Nicholas.”

“Clement Clarke Moore wrote it in 1822 and wrote it for his family and it wasn’t a scholarly publication,” explains Felicity Osepchook, the research head of the museum’s archives.

“He was a scholar, so he didn’t really want to publish it, but it was published anonymously in 1823.”

Moore eventually acknowledged the piece in 1844.

Staff believe the museum’s handwritten copy of the poem isn’t Moore’s original copy, but a copy written by friend Mary O’Dell.

“The O’Dells and the Moores were family friends in New York. In pre-revolutionary U.S., the O’Dells came to New Brunswick in 1784, so they corresponded back and forth,” says Osepchook.

“Clement Clarke Moore wrote the poem in 1822, so the fact the paper is watermarked in 1825 tells us this was not the original…and secondly, if you compare the handwriting, it’s obvious the handwriting is very different.”

Archival assistant Christine Little says the handwritten poem is a “gem” that has become a Christmas legacy at the museum.

“I think they’re delighted to see it and probably a little bit surprised that it’s here in New Brunswick, right here in the city of Saint John,” she says of museum visitors.

The poem will soon be on display at the New Brunswick Museum’s exhibit in Market Square.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ashley Dunbar