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. It is largely responsible for the conception of Santa Claus 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 eight 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. The poem has influenced ideas about St. Nicholas and Santa Claus beyond the United States to the rest of the English speaking world. The only major change to our vision of Santa Claus was the addition of Rudolph in the 1940’s.
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 1844 anthology of his works. Moore was an author, a Hebrew scholar, a professor of Greek and Oriental languages who spoke 5 languages. However he is remembered for the Christmas poem which legend says he wrote on a sleigh ride home after buying a Christmas turkey for his family. There is some debate that Henry Livingston Jr. was the author of the poem.
In An American Anthology, 1787–1900, Edmund Clarence Stedman, editor, 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 "Donner", and the words in modern Dutch would be "Donder en Bliksem". This explains why the confused reindeer has been known as Donner, Donder and Dunder.
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 word courser in the poem means a very fast horse. 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.
There have been many adaptations of the poem including the Librarian’s Night before Christmas, Cajun Night Before Christmas, the Night Before the Night Before Christmas and Heathcliff’s Night Before Christmas. Garfield, the Muppets, and Pokemon all have their own versions of the poem.
The library will be closed on the night before Christmas Dec 24 and on Dec 25. We will be open on Dec 26th.
We hope that you have a ‘Happy Christmas to all and to all a good night.’