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'Night Before Christmas' binds Forum generations

Traditions are the threads that bind one generation to the next. One such thread we've been weaving at The Forum for longer than most anyone can remember is publishing the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" on our front page every Christmas Eve.

Traditions are the threads that bind one generation to the next.

One such thread we've been weaving at The Forum for longer than most anyone can remember is publishing the poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" on our front page every Christmas Eve.

The poem, by Clement C. Moore or Henry Livingston, depending on what you read, has graced The Forum's Christmas Eve editions for so long most people familiar with the tradition can't tell you how or when it started.

Forum publisher and CEO William C. Marcil said Friday he can't recall how or when it began appearing in the paper, but it's been a tradition in his family to have the youngest child read it at the annual Christmas Eve gathering.

Judging by the emotional responses from readers one year The Forum accidentally left it out, it's evident many other area families look forward to that as well.

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The late Forum Editor Lou Ziegler missed publishing the poem in 2001 because everyone working for him just assumed he would see to it, as editors before him had done.

Suffice to say, Ziegler heard loud and clear from readers, and vowed in his next Sunday column to not forget it again.

But, judging from longtime Forum newsman John Lohman, Ziegler wasn't the first editor to make that crucial mistake with readers.

Lohman said a couple editors tried unsuccessfully to remove the poem during his 48 years at the paper, starting in 1952.

"Once they put it in, they couldn't get rid of it," said Lohman, now 72.

He said The Forum Christmas Eve staple dates back to at least the 1940s, when he delivered the paper.

"It's just like it's always been there," Lohman said.

Such is the case with many family traditions.

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Perhaps nobody remembers why they do this and that, just that they do it, just as their parents did, and their parents' parents, and so on.

Call it our little way of holding on to the past, honoring those who came before us.

And while it may seem odd for a newspaper to devote such prime space to an 1822 poem about a visit from St. Nick, consider this:

We are a family, too, with important traditions to pass along that honor our past.

Three years after Ziegler missed publishing the poem, he wrote the following in his Sunday column:

"I remember my parents reading ''Twas the Night' to my brothers and me as youngsters in upstate New York; I recall the great fun I had reading it to my son and daughter as they were growing up in my hometown.

"I can't wait for the time when I'll read it to my grandson, Nick, now just 15 months old, and grandchildren Nos. 2 and 3, who are on the way.

"For generations, the powerful verses served as family bonds."

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Ziegler died a month later from pancreatic cancer at 56.

We owe it to him, those at The Forum who came before him, and our faithful readers, to keep this family tradition alive.

Von Pinnon is editor of The Forum. Reach him at (701) 241-5579 'Night Before Christmas' binds Forum generations Matt Von Pinnon 20071223

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