The poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, also known as "The Night Before Christmas" from its first line, 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. The poem was included in an anthology of his works, but his connection with the verses has been questioned by some. Henry Livingston, a New Yorker with Dutch roots, is the chief candidate for authorship if Moore did not write it.
The real Santa Claus was Saint Nicholas, a fourth century Bishop in Turkey. Famous for acts of kindness, especially towards children, he eventually became popular in Holland, where he was known as 'Sinter Klaas'. Around 1870, the Americans turned the name into Santa Claus. In nineteenth century Britain the Elizabethan character Father Christmas - the jolly old man imagined to provide the Christmas feast - merged with Santa. Until 1890, he was sometimes depicted as tall and thin, wearing green or brown as often as red. Santa's present appearance was created by Swedish artist Jenny Nystrom in a series of Christmas cards. Fellow Swede Haddon Sundblom helped universalize the new image when he adopted Nystrom's ideas for Coca-Cola's advertising campaign - Santa matched Coke's red-and-white logo. Sundblom also refined the character, making his body a little fatter and giving him his herd of flying reindeer.
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 momma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the 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 the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,
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, DONDER 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 the 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 hand, 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 of 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 bowlful 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,
"HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD-NIGHT!"
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