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‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

By

Anonymous

The poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, also known as “The Night Before Christmas”, is one of the most well-known and beloved Christmas poems ever written.

The poem describes St. Nicholas making late-night visits to children’s homes on Christmas Eve, riding in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and bringing gifts. It established many of the modern conceptions of Santa Claus, including his appearance, the names of his reindeer, and his method of entering homes via the chimney.

The poem’s imagery and rhythm have contributed greatly to the lore surrounding Christmas in the Western world today. Its nostalgic and magical description of Christmas Eve has enchanted children and adults alike for two centuries.

Note to parents: this is a vintage story, it may contain themes considered unsuitable for younger children and/or outdated negative cultural depictions.

'Twas the Night Before Christmas book cover.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

by Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In the hope that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

Stockings hung up on the mantlepiece.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap;

The children asleep in bed.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The author jumping out of bed.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below—
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

The author sees Santa's sleigh through the window.

With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled and shouted and called them by name—

“Now, Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer! Now, Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Dunder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch, to the top of the wall!
Now, dash away! Dash away! Dash away! All!”

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas, too.

Santa's sleight drives over the rooftop (part 1).

And then in a twinkling I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each tiny hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.

The author looks at Santa.

His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

Santa standing with a sack of toys laughing.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself.
A wink of his eye, and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Santa filling stockings.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings—then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

The author looking up the chimney.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle;
But I heard him exclaim ere he drove out of sight,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a goodnight!”

Santa's sleigh drives off into the moonlight.

The End