‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’, the famous Christmas poem by Clement Clarke Moore, was first published in 1823. For this 2014 publication, though, we’ve given it a GIF update.
Also known as ‘The Night Before Christmas’, Moore’s poem is deemed responsible for the image of Santa Claus that pervades to this day: the rotund figure clad in fur clothing, with a snow-white beard and jolly disposition.
Before this 19th-century ode to St Nick, perceptions of the magical gift-giver varied widely around the world, but Moore’s ‘jolly old elf’ – said to be a mixture of the historical Saint Nicholas and a local Dutch handyman – created what has now become a shared image of Santa Claus.
The poem was first published anonymously and was written by Moore for his children. It’s still a joyful read to this day – a pleasure that can only be enhanced with the addition of GIFs.
A Visit from St. Nicholas
’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 down for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my 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 he 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, Donner 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 pedler 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 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.
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.”
Main image of Santa on Christmas Eve by RTimages via Shutterstock