“The Night Before Christmas”

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(1823) A poem from the early nineteenth century by the American author Clement C. Moore; it concerns the appearance of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. The original title of the poem is “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” Some lines from it are:

`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; ...
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
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notes for “The Night Before Christmas”

Moore's poem did much to establish certain aspects of the myth of Santa Claus: that he is a fat man dressed in a fur-trimmed suit, carries presents in a sack, enters houses through the chimney, and travels through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

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The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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