Thursday 24 December 2009



Tonight's the night!

SANTA is - well, hopefully - on his way!

Even though he has to share the seasonal honours in Italy with La Befana, BABBO NATALE, as he is known here, has already arrived in our Venice apartment...

One of the strongest influences shaping collective perception of Santa Claus, Father Christmas or however you know him, was a nineteenth century poem - or, more truthfully, a piece of delightful doggerel, the unsophisticated nature of which is a huge part of its enduring appeal.

Long years before Tim Burton came up with his Nightmare Before Christmas, there was Clement C Moore's The NIGHT Before Christmas...

'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;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains 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 head, 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."

It is said that Clement Clarke Moore (right) wrote his poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas (also known as The Night Before Christmas), for his family on Christmas Eve 1822. He never intended that it be published, but when a family friend, Miss Harriet Butler, learned of the poem some time later from Moore's children, she copied it into her album, and submitted it to the editor of the Troy Sentinel in New York where it made its first appearance on December 23, 1823.

The poem was soon being reprinted in other newspapers, almanacs and magazines and was first published in a book in The New York Book of Poetry of 1837.

A few year later, in 1844, Moore finally acknowledged authorship of the verses in, Poems, a volume of his poetry published at the request of his children. Today it is one of the most-published, most-read, most-memorized Christmas poems of all time.

And here's Walt Disney's 1933 Silly Symphony version...

Sleep well, tonight!

The illustrations to A Visit from St Nicholas are by Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)


Boll Weavil said...

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without... the Sibley Yuletide Blog ! Have a great time - the same to all your readers.
Verscett : A warm, comfortable,smug feeling, often alcohol induced, that having done everything, it really doesn't matter if it does snow fact you'd kind of like it regardless of the chaos it causes for everyone else out there; if only because it gives you a glow to think you're indoors and warm.

Suzanne said...

Funny that - when my girls were little I used to tell them that it was Santa who decorated the tree. That way I could get it done "properly" by myself! To this day, I still prefer to decorate the tree by myself. I've always loved that poem.   But what badly behaved kids!deoprom: the strange face you pull when you open a really rubbish present in front of the person who spent all year thinking it up!

Arts and Crafts said...

Para Brian y David, para todos sus lectores y amigos del blog:

Feliz Noche!! Merry Christmas!!

Jen said...

It was our Christmas tradition to read that story to young one. Posting notes up the chimney for Santa & leaving a drink for him(single malt) & carrots for the reindeer, always gone by the morrow(!) just an empty glass, sooty foot prints & gifts in return.
Happy Christmas to all!
RETTERBA: sound of reindeer on the roof

Brian Sibley said...

ROGER came across the following parody on the internet...

The Night Before Christmas -- for Parents

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house
I searched for the tools to hand to my spouse.

Instructions were studied and we were inspired,
In hopes we could manage "Some Assembly Required."

The children were quiet (not asleep) in their beds,
While Dad and I faced the evening with dread:

A kitchen, two bikes, Barbie's townhouse to boot!
And, much thanks to Grandpa, a train with a toot!

We opened the boxes, my heart skipped a beat,
Let no parts be missing, or parts incomplete!

Too late for last-minute returns or replacement;
If we can't get it right, it goes in the basement!

When what to my worrying eyes should appear,
But 50 sheets of directions (concise, but not clear),

With each small part numbered and every slot named,
So that if we failed, only we could be blamed.

More rapid than eagles the parts then fell out,
All over the carpet they were scattered about:

Now bolt it! Now twist it! Attach it right there!
Slide on the seats, and staple the stair!

Hammer the shelves, and nail to the stand.
"Honey," said hubby, "you just glued my hand."

And then in a twinkling, I knew for a fact,
That all the toy dealers had indeed made a pact.

To keep parents busy all Christmas Eve night,
With "assembly required" 'til morning's first light.

We spoke not a word, but kept bent at our work,
'Til our eyes, they went bleary; our fingers all hurt.

The coffee went cold, and the night it wore thin,
Before we attached the last rod and last pin.

Then laying the tools away in the chest,
We fell into bed for a well-deserved rest.

But I said to my husband just before I passed out,
"This will be the best Christmas, without any doubt."

Tomorrow we'll cheer, let the holiday ring,
And not have to run to the store for a thing!

We did it! We did it! The toys are all set
For the perfect, most perfect, Christmas, I bet!

Then off to dreamland, at last sweet repose,
I gratefully went, although I suppose...

There's something to say for those self-deluded:
I'd forgotten that batteries are never included!