A Visit from St. Nicholas has become one of the most recognizable pieces of English poetry. Originally published anonymously in 1823, it was claimed by Clement Clark Moore in 1837 and its authorship has been a controversy ever since.
Discussion questions and resources for teachers are located at the bottom.
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS
(The Night Before Christmas)
By Clement Clark Moore
|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—
When out on the lawn there rose 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 a lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
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! Dunder 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 a 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 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 bowl full 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,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
Questions for Discussion
- This poem has a very specific rhyming scheme. What is it?
- The lyricism of this poem makes it a particularly pleasant auditory experience, which, in part, led to its popularity. What advantages did the poet gain by making this poem such an auditory experience?
- Did you notice that one of the reindeer was named Dunder in this original version. Later versions have this reindeer named Donner. Why do you think this evolution took place and how do you feel about the more popular version being changed from the original?
- What did you notice about the number of syllables in each line?
- This poem is often parodied. Craft a version of this poem that honors its rhyme scheme and number of syllables which explores a topic not Christmas related.
- Write a five paragraph essay that explores why this poem resonated so easily with its early target audience and persists to this day.
- Make a graphic representation of this poem by drawing each couplet in its own panel.