First published anonymously on December 23, 1823, Clement Moore did not acknowledge authorship of this poem until 1844. Although Moore’s poem is largely responsible for the folklore surrounding Santa Claus from the early 19th century to the present, have any of you questioned the miniature sleigh, the tiny reindeer, and the jolly old elf, described as little several times — little old driver, little mouth, little round belly? Maybe that is why all of us can envision Santa Claus coming down the chimney on Christmas Eve.
The images from this 1862 edition, engraved by Nathaniel Orr, are so lovely, that I have decided to share all of them with you, with snippets of the poem included under each.
‘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 moon, on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of mid-day to objects below;
So, up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With a 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.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work.
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk.
Any 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,
“Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”
See PHILCAT to to view additional titles that include Orr’s engravings.