'Twas the Night Before Christmas
Children's book review by Jane Finch.
Was This The Beginning of Santa Claus?
It is said that this wonderful tale was the beginning of the legend of Santa Claus, including the way he looks.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” has also been known as “A Visit from Saint Nicholas” and “The Night Before Christmas”.
So how many people know that this story was the first introduction to the number of names of Santa’s reindeer, and the tradition of Santa (or Saint Nick) bringing toys to children at Christmas?
This story is told in poem, and of course the first few lines are well known:
'Twas the night before Christmas
What actually happens in the poem is that the setting is Christmas Eve. A man is in his house and his wife and children are sleeping. For some reason he wakes up, and sees Saint Nicholas riding in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. The sleigh lands on his roof.
Entering the house through the chimney (of course) he fills up the children’s stockings with toys and gifts. The man watches, and then Saint Nicholas flies away in his sleigh, wishing everyone a merry Christmas.
Of course, it is a very simple tale, but it is at the root of every traditional Christmas story about Santa Claus.
We are not told the father’s name, although the story is told from his point of view and in the first person.
I love the description of Santa Claus, there is so much character given, such as cheeks like roses and a nose like a cherry. I had to smile when I read he had a stump of a pipe in his mouth, with smoke curling around him. I guess these days to have Santa Claus smoking would not be quite politically correct. However, it suits this character perfectly.
The poem itself was first published anonymously in 1823 and it was not until a year later that it was acknowledged as the work of Clement Clarke Moore.
I really enjoy traditional Christmas stories and this is just about as perfect as one can get. Fine, so we may need to gloss over the fact old Santa Claus is smoking a pipe, but I doubt the children will even notice, they will be so beguiled by the lilt and rhyme and fun of this poem.
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
Browse various editions of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas books.
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
Read more of Jane's book reviews.
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