MEMORIES OF TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS
I read this poem to my children when they were just toddlers. It was in storybook form with bright, colorful images. I’d read it to them as they anxiously tried to settle down and go to sleep anticipating Santa’s arrival. When they were older we’d sit down together and read it right before going to bed. We’d take turn reading the verses out loud. Years later it became a tradition with my grandbabies.
A Visit from St. Nicholas is the actual name of the poem but it is more commonly known as Twas the Night Before Christmas and also The Night Before Christmas.
Dr. Clement C. Moore (1779 – 1863) gets credit for writing the poem to give to his children for a Christmas present. However, Henry B. Livingston Jr. (1748 – 1828) has also been said to be the uncredited author of the poem.
It was first published anonymously in 1823 in a New York newspaper, the Troy Sentinel and is said to have been sent to the newspaper by a friend of Dr. Moore.
It has since been published in newspapers, magazines, school readers, and book form with pictures, and has been translated into many languages including braille.
Twas the Night Before Christmas
A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement C. Moore
With Pictures by Jessie Willcox Smith
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
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,
Then 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 moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
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 and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As dry leaves that 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.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little 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 peddler just opening his pack.
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 like a bow,
And the beard of 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.
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;
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;
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,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”
Take a look at this page which shows the book cover and pictures along with the poem from 1912.
Did you read this as a child, do you or did you read it to your children and grandchildren?