Activity from A Visit From Saint Nicholas

Swagbucks Book Club-Twas the Night Before the Night Before

Posted by on Fri, December 23rd, 2011 at 10:00 am

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

 

So begins one of the most famous poems in the English language, A Visit from Saint Nicholas by Clement C. Moore.  This simple 14 stanza composition, originally published anonymously on this date in 1823, is largely responsible for the concept of Santa Clause from the mid-nineteenth century to today including his physical appearance, the night of his visit, his mode of transportation, the number and names of his reindeer as well as the tradition that he brings toys to children.

1896 edition

According to legend, the poem was written by Moore for his family during a shopping trip on a sleigh.  His inspiration for the character of Saint Nicolas was a local Dutch handyman as well as the historical 4th century saint who had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. Moore’s conception of Saint Nicolas was borrowed from his friend Washington Irving’s work A History of New York, but Moore portrayed his “jolly old elf” as arriving Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day to avoid any religious connotations. Moore is also the first to characterize Saint Nicholas as riding in a sleigh.

Since it’s first publication, A Visit from Saint Nicholas has gone through many changes.  The original manuscript lists all the reindeer names using Dutch spellings for “Dunder and Blixem” which was a common phrase of the time that translates in English to “Thunder and Lightning”.  In 1837 Moore himself changed the characters to the German spellings of “Donder and Blitzen”.  When “Donder” became “Donner” remains a mystery.  Another prominent change is the last night which is now frequently recited as “Merry Christmas” as opposed to the original “Happy Christmas”.

Whichever version you prefer it is assured that many a family will gather around the Christmas tree tomorrow evening for a traditional reading of this famous poem.  And with that in mind I say to you, “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good-night“.

-Becky