'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through two-meters
Not a signal was keying up any repeaters.

(full poem text below)

That line, adapted from the famous poem A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement Clarke Moore, had been floating around in my head for years. I always intended to do something with it, and in December, 1996, I finally did. With some help from KE4FCJ and AC4ZO, I wrote the rest of the Ham's Night version of the poem. I stayed more or less true to the original for the first few stanzas, but then it took on a life of its own. It only took an hour or two to write (that's fast, for those of you who think this is easy). I'm kind of proud how few of the rhymes and cadences had to be tortured to fit. If you look up some of the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of other versions of the poem that have been written, you'll see what I mean. Most are painfully contorted. And it seems that the original poem has been adapted to cover just about every group, activity and occasion you can think of.

I performed the poem live at a few radio club meetings, and it was well received (especially the line about Wayne Green). I put the text on the web, and it found its way into dozens of club newsletters and web sites. Some of them even gave me credit!

In 2003, I recorded an audio version at the SoundTrax studio in Raleigh NC, where I freelance. That ran on Newsline and ARRL Audio News. 
I'd been thinking of adding music to the poem, and experimented with a few tracks (Silent Night, Little Drummer Boy), but nothing really fit. In 2010, Don Mercz WA3AYR, another SoundTrax freelancer, recorded himself playing a medley of Christmas music on guitar, and gave us all a copy. When I heard Don's medley, I knew this was the one. I adjusted the tempo of the poem just a little to fit the bars of the music, and made just one edit in the music to make it time out (had to add a few seconds). But mostly it was an amazing fit.

Next, the movie... er, video. Where to get pictures? I thought about asking an illustrator or cartoonist to draw some custom pictures. But that would be a big project, and I didn't know anyone well enough to beg that much work. Animation? Live action? Way to much work. Next thought: QST covers. Every year the December issue has a Christmas or holiday theme. I asked the ARRL for permission to use them, and it was quickly granted. Only problem was that as I began to edit, I realized that there weren't nearly enough covers to do anything more than make them "wallpaper." And I was starting to want images that were appropriate for the line of the poem they would be shown against. As I browsed the old QST's, I noticed that a lot of ads also had Christmas and Santa artwork.
I selected a big handful of ads and a few Gil cartoons, went through another round of permissions (from companies that were still in business, and nobody turned me down) and finally I had my images. Again, I didn't need to torture the concept too much to make the pictures fit the narrative. Almost every line is covered by something that works, and some of them are brilliant. I put the video on YouTube in December 2010, and watched the hit counter climb. In 2011, I made a special version for the ARRL, and that took off as well. (The link will take you to a page where you'll also find the text and audio versions with and without music — you can play the 'no music' version on the air!)

In 2012, it was time for a High Definition version. Rebuilding the project was fairly easy (but still a full day's work). Sometimes, though, things looked a little too good. I added some transparency to the titles showing the year and logo of each image so they didn't stand out so much. And I made my own
HAMRADIONOW 'bug' almost invisible.

And on the 20th anniversary of the poem, in 2016, I went back to the roots and recorded myself reading it 'live' to the camera, and mixed that in with the classic QST covers, ads and cartoons. That became HamRadioNow Episode 283.

Yes, it's a Christmas poem. But I offer it in the spirit of the holiday season to all, whatever you believe or celebrate. In a troubled world, this is a time when we remind ourselves that peace is the goal. I hope we find it soon.

You have my blanket permission to copy, reproduce, publish, embed, steal, lift, improve,
revise and otherwise re-use the text and audio. The images are not mine to give away,
but feel free to link to and embed the video on your web site.

73, Gary KN4AQ        

'Twas the night before Christmas,  
And all through two-meters,  
Not a signal was keying up  
Any repeaters.

The antennas reached up  
From the tower, quite high,  
To catch the weak signals  
That bounced from the sky.

The children, Technicians,  
Took their HT's to bed,  
And dreamed of the day  
They'd be Extras, instead.

Mom put on her headphones,  
I plugged in the key,  
And we tuned 40 meters  
For that rare ZK3.

When the meter was pegged  
By a signal with power.  
It smoked a small diode,  
And, I swear, shook the tower.

Mom yanked off her phones,  
And with all she could muster  
Logged a spot of the signal  
On the DX PacketCluster,

While I ran to the window  
And peered up at the sky,  
To see what could generate  
RF that high.

It was way in the distance,  
But the moon made it gleam -  
A flying sleigh,  
With an eight element beam,

And a little old driver  
Who looked slightly mean,  
So I though for a moment  
That it might be Wayne Green.

But no, it was Santa,  
The Santa of Hams,  
On a mission this Christmas  
To clean up the bands.

He circled the tower,  
Then stopped in his track,  
And he slid down the coax  
Right into the shack.

While Mom and I hid  
Behind stacks of CQ, 
This Santa of hamming  
Knew just what to do.

He cleared off the shack desk  
Of paper and parts,  
And filled out all my late  
QSLs, for a start.

He ran copper braid,  
Took a steel rod and pounded  
It into the earth  
Till the station was grounded.

He tightened loose fittings,  
Resoldered connections,  
Cranked down modulation,  
Installed lightning protection.

He neutralized tubes  
In my linear amp...  
(Never worked right before –  
Now it works like a champ).

A new low-pass filter  
Cleaned up the TV.  
He corrected the settings  
In my TNC.

He repaired the computer  
That wouldn't compute,  
And he backed up the hard drive  
And got it to boot.

Then, he reached really deep  
In the bag that he brought,  
And he pulled out a big box.  
"A new rig?" I thought!

"A new Kenwood? An Icom?  
A Yaesu, for me?
An Elecraft, TEN-TEC
Or Flex, could it be!"  
(If he thought I'd been bad  
It might be QRP!)

Yes! The Ultimate station!  
How could I deserve this?  
Could it be all those weekends
I worked Public Service?

He hooked it all up  
And in record time, quickly  
Worked 100 countries,  
All down on 160.

I should have been happy.  
It was my call he sent.  
But the cards and the postage
Will cost a month's rent!

He made final adjustments,  
And left a card by the key: 
"To Gary, from Santa Claus. 

Then he grabbed his HT, 
Looked me straight in the eye, 
Punched a code on the pad, 
And was gone - no good bye.

I ran back to the station, 
And the pile up was big. 
But a card from St. Nick  
Would be worth my new rig.

Oh, too late, for his final
Came over the air.  
It was copied all over. 
It was heard everywhere.

The Ham's Santa exclaimed
What an old ham expects: 
"Merry Christmas to all, 
And to all, good DX."

© 1996, 2016 Gary Pearce KN4AQ 
Permission granted for any print
or electronic reproduction, 
no advance approval required.