A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as The Night Before Christmas and Twas the Night Before Christmas from its first line, is a poem, first published anonymously in 1823 and generally attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, though the claim has also been made that it was written by Henry Livingston, Jr.
On Christmas Eve night, while his wife and children sleep, a man awakens to noises outside his house. Looking out the window, he sees St. Nicholas in an air-borne sleigh pulled by eight reindeer - Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, and Blitzen. After landing his sleigh on the roof, St. Nicholas enters the house through the chimney, carrying a sack of toys with him. The man watches St. Nicholas filling the children's stockings hanging by the fire, and laughs to himself. They share a conspiratorial moment before St. Nicholas bounds up the chimney again. As he flies away, St. Nicholas wishes everyone a "Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night."
Film and television adaptations
- The Night Before Christmas - a 1905 silent short film directed by Edwin S. Porter
- The Night Before Christmas - a 1933 animated short produced by Walt Disney Animation.
- The Night Before Christmas - a 1941 cartoon short starring Tom and Jerry.
- The Night Before Christmas - a 1968 animated television special
- 'Twas the Night Before Christmas - a 1974 animated special produced by Rankin/Bass
- The Star Wars album Christmas in the Stars features a version of the tale from the memory of a droid.
- A Muppet Family Christmas features a pageant of the poem performed by the Sesame Street Muppets.
- The Animaniacs segment "'Twas the Day Before Christmas" has Ralph the Guard 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 poem.
- The Histeria! episode "The American Revolution - Part I" features a sketch featuring a version of the poem based on George Washington's trip across the Delaware River.
- The album Pokémon Christmas Bash has a track in which the characters read a Pokémon-themed version of the poem.
- Shrek the Halls features different versions of the tale as told by Donkey, the Gingerbread Man, Puss in Boots, and Shrek.
- The Rolie Polie Olie episode "Jingle Jangle Days Eve" features a spoof of the story as told by the Polie family.
- Super WHY!: "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" - This version has the lead characters and his friends flying into the story to discover why Santa delivers gifts on Christmas Eve.
- The Polar Express - In a deleted scene, twin engineers Steamer and Smokey tell the two children (a white boy and a black girl) their own version of the poem that goes like this:
- 'Twas the night before Christmas in the year 33,
- When this hobo named King decided he wanted to ride for free.
- He was riding on the roof as king of the pole
- When it started to fall that white stuff called snow.
- The engine started down the steep; icicles dropped;
- Headed toward the tunnel, a tunnel called Flat Top.
- The train made its way toward the tunnel moved faster
- And the king got nervous 'cause up ahead was disaster.
- He didn't have time to holler, he didn't have time to cry.
- He got slipped off this train like that stubborn Georgia Swamp in July.
Parts of the poem have been set to music numerous times, including a bowdlerized version by American composer Ken Darby (1909-1992), whose version was recorded by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians three separate times; in 1942, 1955, and 1963. The latter 1963 stereo recording for Capitol Records became the most familiar of the poem's musical adaptations. Norman Luboff's choir would record their own version for the 1968 special.
Christmas song-writing specialist Johnny Marks also composed a short version in 1952, titled "The Night Before Christmas Song", which has been recorded multiple times, and was used in the soundtrack for the 1964 TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, sung by Burl Ives.
The first completely musical rendition, that used the text of the poem in its entirety without material additions or alterations, was the cantata "A Visit from St. Nicholas" composed by Lucian Walter Dressel in 1992 and first performed by the Webster University Orchestra, SATB Soloists, and Chorus.
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