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Encyclopedia > A Visit from St. Nicholas
Cover of a 1912 edition of the poem, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.
Cover of a 1912 edition of the poem, illustrated by Jessie Willcox Smith.

The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", which is also known as "The Night Before Christmas" from its first line, and first published in 1823, is largely responsible for the contemporary American conception of Santa Claus. This includes his appearance, the night he visits, his method of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer, and that he brings toys to children. Prior to the poem, American ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors varied considerably. Image File history File linksMetadata Twas_the_Night_Before_Christmas_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_17135. ... Image File history File linksMetadata Twas_the_Night_Before_Christmas_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_17135. ... Jessie Willcox Smith (September 6, 1863 - May 3, 1935) was an American illustrator. ... A typical depiction of Santa Claus. ... Santa Claus reindeer are a team of reindeer which pull his sleigh and help him deliver Christmas gifts. ... Saint Nicholas, also known as Nikolaus in Germany and Sinterklaas (a contracted form of Sint Nicolaas) in the Netherlands and Flanders, is the common name for the historical Saint Nicholas of Myra, who lived in 4th century Byzantine Anatolia, (now in modern Turkey) and had a reputation for secret gift...


Literary history

The poem was first published anonymously in the Troy, New York Sentinel on December 23, 1823, and was reprinted frequently thereafter with no name attached. Authorship was later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore and the poem was included in an anthology of his works, but his connection with the verses has been questioned by some. Moore's wife was of Dutch descent, being a descendant of the Van Cortlandt family via her mother. She shared bloodlines with Henry Livingston, Jr. and Clement Clarke Moore's family was married into the Livingston family as well. Henry Livingston, a New Yorker with Dutch and Scottish roots, is the chief candidate for authorship if Moore did not write it. Looking west down Broadway at downtown Troy. ... is the 357th day of the year (358th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1823 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar). ... Clement Clarke Moore, (July 15, 1779 – July 10, 1863), is best known as the credited author of A Visit From St. ... Van Cortlandt may refer to: // Jacobus Van Cortlandt, a merchant and Mayor of New York City Philip Van Cortlandt, a United States Representative Pierre Van Cortlandt, the first lieutenant governor of New York Stephanus Van Cortlandt, 17th century Mayor of New York City and namesake of Van Cortlandt Park Van... Major Henry Livingston Jr. ... The Livingston family of New York were a prominent family which migrated from Scotland to the Dutch Republic to the Province of New York in the 17th century. ... New York, New York and NYC redirect here. ... This article is about the country. ...

In An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed., reprinted the Moore version of the poem, including the German spelling of "Donder and Blitzen" he adopted, rather than the earlier Dutch version from 1823, "Dunder and Blixem." Both phrases translate as "Thunder and Lightning" in English, though the German word for thunder is actually "Donner," and the words in modern Dutch would be "Donder en Bliksem." The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ...

Today, some printings alter the grammar and spelling of the poem and replace somewhat archaic words, such as ere, with ones more familiar to modern readers. The final line, originally written as "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night," has been changed in many editions to "Merry Christmas to all," in accord with the standard Christmas greeting current in the United States and other English speaking or English-teaching countries except England. Merry Christmas is a spoken greeting traditionally used on or around the Christmas holiday on December 25 of every year. ... The English language is a West Germanic language that originates in England. ... For other uses, see England (disambiguation). ...

Original copies

Four hand-written copies of the poem are known to exist, and three are in museums. The fourth copy, written out and signed by Clement Clarke Moore as a gift to a friend in 1860, was sold by one private collector to another in December, 2006. According to Dallas-based Heritage Auction Galleries, which brokered the private sale, it was purchased for $280,000 U.S. by an unnamed "chief executive officer of a media company" who resides in Manhattan. Newswire reports at the time made no mention of the authorship controversy.[1] “Dallas” redirects here. ... For other uses, see Manhattan (disambiguation). ...

Authorship controversy

Evidence to support Moore as author

  • "Professor Moore" is credited as author in the December 25, 1837 Pennsylvania Inquirer and Daily Courier.
  • Moore claimed the poem in 1844. This was at the request of his children. He had preferred to be known for more scholarly works.[citation needed]
  • Moore may have had access to A History of New York by "Dietrich Knickerbocker" (Washington Irving) which covers the story of Sinterklaas.
  • Moore and Irving were members of the same literary society in New York City and were friends.
  • Although some say Moore falsely claimed authorship once before, this has since been challenged.[2] He signed a book as a gift, as one dedicates a book they give to another person. He did not claim authorship. Document historian Seth Kallar has answered this charge and other related arguments.[2]
  • Rev. David Butler, who allegedly showed the poem to Sentinel editor Orville L. Holley, was a relative of Moore's.
  • A letter to Moore from the publisher states "I understand from Mr. Holley that he received it from Mrs. Sackett, the wife of Mr. Daniel Sackett who was then a merchant in this city."
  • Although Moore wrote darker poems, Nissenbaum argues that it could have been a social satire of the Victorianization of Christmas.[citation needed]

Washington Irving (April 3, 1783 – November 28, 1859) was an American author of the early 19th century. ... Sinterklaas and his Zwarte Pieten helpers arrive in the town of Sneek in November 2005 Sinterklaas (also called Sint Nikolaas in Dutch ( (help· info)) and Saint Nicolas in French) is a holiday tradition in the Netherlands and Belgium, celebrated every year on Saint Nicholas eve (December 5) or, in Belgium...

Evidence to support Livingston as author

  • Moore "tried at first to disavow" the poem.[3]
  • Use of anapaestic rhyme scheme and metre consistent with Livingston.
  • Use of Dutch "Dunder and Blixem" - Livingston's mother was Dutch.
  • Phraseology consistent with other Livingston poems.
  • Livingston wrote cheerful poems, Moore typically more miserable ones.
  • Moore is known to have falsely taken credit as a book's translator.[4]
  • Moore claimed that only two changes were introduced in the first printing, yet it differs from his own on 23 points.

An anapaest or anapest, also called antidactylus, is a metrical foot used in formal poetry. ...

Adaptations and Parodies

Being a very well-known poem, there are many parodies of A Visit from St. Nicholas.[5] Most of the parodies that can be found on the Internet are intended to be humorous, or satirical.

  • In the series 9 episode The One with Christmas in Tulsa of Friends, Phoebe begins the episode by singing the last four lines of The Night Before Christmas, "from He sprang to his sleigh" to the end, to Joey claiming she wrote it.
  • In the Garfield comic strips published during the week of December 1924, 1983, the text of the poem was drawn above scenes of Garfield acting out the part of the narrator.
  • In the Luann comic strip, Luann's dad has read The Night Before Christmas to the wife and kids, and when he reads the verse 'Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash', he leaves out 'the sash', providing great merriment to Luann and her brother Brad.
  • In A Muppet Family Christmas, the Muppets from Sesame Street perform a play based on the poem, with Ernie narrating and Bert as Mamma. The monsters appear as the reindeer, with the Two-Headed Monster as Santa (and Grover as the mouse who is not stirring).
  • Episode 55 of Animaniacs featured a skit titled "The Day Before Christmas," in which Ralph the Guard is given the task of delivering Yakko, Wakko, and Dot's Christmas presents. The short is presented as a bedtime story told by Slappy Squirrel to her nephew Skippy and is narrated in the poetic form as the original story. This cartoon was adapted into comic book form in a special comic book published by DC Comics in October 1994.
  • The Histeria! episode "The Return of the American Revolution" featured a sketch about George Washington's famous trip across the Delaware River, narrated in the poem's fashion.
  • The Tim Burton 1993 stop-action film The Nightmare Before Christmas is a parody on the title.
  • In "'Twas the Night Before Christmas", a short animated TV movie from 1974 by Rankin/Bass, the characters and portions of the plot are loosely based on the poem.
  • In the FoxTrot strip published on December 24, 1998, Roger and Andy are shown reading the poem in bed when they suddenly hear the kids sneaking downstairs. Roger comments that the poem was "surely written by someone who never had kids".
  • The comedy musical 'Twas the Night by Lani Brockman and Susan Bardsley is based on the poem.
  • In the web comic Ctrl+Alt+Del a series of comics titled a "A Winter-Een-Mas Story" parodies with poems about the spirits of Winter-een-mas.
  • In the Dave Van Ronk song "Yas Yas Yas" the poem is parodied in the verse " twas the night before christmas, all was quiet in the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse, when from the lawn there came a big crash. It was Father Christmas landing on his yas yas yas."
  • In the movie Die Hard, Theo alerts his friends to the SWAT team's arrival with the opening line of this poem.[6]
  • "Trosclair" (1992). Cajun Night Before Christmas, 20th Anniversary edition. Pelican Publishing Co.. ISBN 0-882-89940-6. 
  • The Internet Engineering Task Force's Request for Comments has a poem about the start up of the internet titled "Twas the night before Start-up."[7]
  • On Laurie Z.'s 2001 recording Heart of the Holidays, actor Jack Palance narrates the poem.
  • There is a poem centered around the computer game Doom called "The Night before Doom" which appears in the Official DOOM FAQ.

The One with Christmas in Tulsa is episode 10 of Season 9 of the television sitcom Friends. ... For the use of the word in a general sense, see Friendship. ... This article does not cite any references or sources. ... This article is about the comic strip. ... is the 353rd day of the year (354th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1983 (MCMLXXXIII) was a common year starting on Saturday (link displays the 1983 Gregorian calendar). ... This article or section is not written in the formal tone expected of an encyclopedia article. ... A Muppet Family Christmas is a made for TV movie produced in 1987, starring Jim Hensons Muppets. ... Sesame Street is an American educational childrens television series for preschoolers and is a pioneer of the contemporary educational television standard, combining both education and entertainment. ... This article is about the muppet character from Sesame Street. ... For other uses, see Bert (disambiguation). ... Grover and a girl on Sesame Street A Celebration of Me, Grover DVD cover Grover shown alongside another character from Sesame Street, Kermit the Frog, on the cover of The Best of Kermit on Sesame Street. ... This article is about the television series. ... Ralph the Guard was a fictional character in the Warner Bros. ... Animaniacs logo, featuring Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, plus Pinky and the Brain. ... Slappy Slappy Squirrel (voiced by Sherri Stoner) is a character in the Warner Brothers cartoon show Animaniacs. ... Skippy Squirrel is a fictional cartoon squirrel in the Warner Bros. ... DC Comics is an American comic book and related media company. ... 1994 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar, and was designated the International year of the Family. ... Histeria! was an animated television series of the late-1990s, created by Tom Ruegger (who also created Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, and Pinky and the Brain) at Warner Bros. ... George Washington (February 22, 1732 – December 14, 1799)[1] led Americas Continental Army to victory over Britain in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), and in 1789 was elected the first President of the United States of America. ... Timothy Tim William Burton (born August 25, 1958) is an Academy Award-nominated American film director, writer and designer. ... Halloweentown Tim Burtons The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 Academy Award-nominated, stop motion animated musical film about the inhabitants of Halloween Town who take over Christmas, directed by stop-motion animator Henry Selick. ... Twas the Night Before Christmas, the 1974 Rankin-Bass animated Christmas television special, has very little to do with the famous 1823 poem that opens with this line. ... Year 1974 (MCMLXXIV) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display full calendar) of the 1974 Gregorian calendar. ... Rankin/Bass Productions, Inc. ... This article is about the comic strip; for other uses, see Foxtrot (disambiguation). ... is the 358th day of the year (359th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ... Year 1998 (MCMXCVIII) was a common year starting on Thursday (link will display full 1998 Gregorian calendar). ... Lani Brockman (born on December 11, 1956 in Seattle) is a theater actress and director. ... Web comics are comics that are available on the web. ... This article is about Ctrl+Alt+Del, the webcomic. ... // Winter-een-mas Winter-een-mas is a week long celebration of video games that lasts from January 25th through January 31st. ... // Winter-een-mas Winter-een-mas is a week long celebration of video games that lasts from January 25th through January 31st. ... This article is about the 1988 action film. ... In internetworking and computer network engineering, Request for Comments (RFC) documents are a series of memoranda encompassing new research, innovations, and methodologies applicable to Internet technologies. ... Laurie Zeluck Carter (1957-2006) was an American pianist and electronic musician who recorded under the name Laurie Z. Her music is described as a blend of classical, jazz and contemporary instrumental. ... Jack Palance, (born Volodymyr Palanyuk (Ukr: Володимир Паланюк))on February 18, 1919, in Hazle Township, Pennsylvania, USA), is an Academy Award-winning American actor. ... Doom (or DOOM)[1] is a 1993 computer game by id Software that is a landmark title in the first-person shooter genre. ...



  1. ^ Copy of Poem Sold; 'Twas Worth $280K December 19, 2006 Associated Press report published in, inter alia, Washington Post. Accessed January 18, 2007.
  2. ^ a b Ho, Ho, Hoax. December 1, 2006. Scarsdale Magazine. Accessed January 18, 2007.
  3. ^ Clement Moore Revisited. 1982 by Peter Christoph (of New York State Library in Albany.) Accessed January 17, 2007.
  4. ^ Literary Sleuth Casts Doubt on the Authorship of an Iconic Christmas Poem. October 26, 2000 New York Times. Accessed January 18, 2007.
  5. ^ With Apologies to Clement C. Moore... undated in About: Urban Legends and Folklore. Accessed January 18, 2007.
  6. ^ Memorable Quotes from "Die Hard". Internet Movie Database. Accessed January 18, 2007.
  7. ^ Twas the Night Before Start-up by Vint Cerf, December 1985. Published at website of Internet Engineering Task Force. Accessed January 18, 2007.

The Associated Press, or AP, is an American news agency, the worlds largest such organization. ... ... The New York Times is an internationally known daily newspaper published in New York City and distributed in the United States and many other nations worldwide. ... The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) is an online database of information about movies, actors, television shows, production crew personnel, and video games. ... The Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) develops and promotes Internet standards, cooperating closely with the W3C and ISO/IEC standard bodies; and dealing in particular with standards of the TCP/IP and Internet protocol suite. ...

Other works

  • Foster, Donald (2000). Author Unknown: On the Trail of Anonymous. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-6357-9. 
  • Gardner, Martin (1991). The Annotated Night Before Christmas: A Collection Of Sequels, Parodies, And Imitations Of Clement Moore's Immortal Ballad About Santa Claus; Edited, with an introduction and notes, by Martin Gardner. Summit Books. ISBN 0-671-70839-2. 
  • Nissenbaum, Stephen (1997). The Battle for Christmas: A Social and Cultural History of Christmas that Shows How It Was Transformed from an Unruly Carnival Season into the Quintessential American Family Holiday. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. ISBN 0-679-41223-9. 

Donald W. Foster, born 1950, is a professor of English at Vassar College in New York. ... Martin Gardner (b. ...

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
A Visit from St. Nicholas



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