The Poem That Launched Our Santa

“If I had one wish that I could wish this holiday season, it would be that all the children of the world join hands and sing together in the spirit of harmony and peace.”

“If I had two wishes I could make this holiday season, the first would be for all the children of the world to join hands and sing in the spirit of harmony and peace. And the second would be for 30 million dollars a month to be given to me, tax-free in a Swiss bank account.”

That wish was made famous by Steve Martin in a Saturday Night Live Christmas Special. Really, what makes Christmas more special than the Christmas special itself?

Is it possible to feel festive without watching such classics as The Christmas Story, Home Alone, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas or Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a story that should have a place in all of our hearts thanks to Yukon Cornelius‘ heroic portrayal of Northerners)?

Some people skip the television and rely heavily on carols in order to feel all warm and Yule-ish.

If singing Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree while drinking eggnog is off limits to you for getting into the Christmas groove, you can opt for the warmest of warm fuzzies at this time of the year and read a classic that has been around for centuries.

The Night Before Christmas is a poem first published in 1823. It played a big part in creating the image of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to present day. This consists of details such as Santa’s appearance, his transport including the number and names of his reindeer and that he brings toys to children.

Before the poem, ideas about St. Nicholas and other Christmas visitors varied greatly.

Although some of the language in the poem is a bit out of date, it is quite simple to follow the action in the poem.

While the narrator’s wife and children continue to sleep, he wakes up to noises outside his house. When he looks out the window, he sees Santa in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer landing on his roof. Santa then enters the house through the chimney.

The narrator watches Mr. Claus at work. Santa acknowledges the narrator’s presence before leaving the house through the chimney. As he flies into the distance, Santa Claus calls out the well-known line “Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.”

This poem has so much rhythm that it’s practically a song. It’s the closest thing to singing that the tone-deaf can come and still make people smile rather than coil back in horror.

The Night Before Christmas is enjoyable for children of all ages because of this cadence. Because it has been around so long, it generally brings back good memories for children who are all grown-up.

There are tons of beautifully illustrated versions of the poem including a particularly creative book by Jan Brett, a well known artist who also published a rendition of The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Like many others, I remember The Night Before Christmas being printed in newspapers as the big day approached along with collections of carols. Or if you are lucky enough to have Internet access, it’s not too late to print off a copy of this classic. Read it again, for the first time!

You can find them at Coles, Mac’s Fireweed Books, Well-Read Books and the public libraries.

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