The Night Before Christmas

A reading of the poem, “The Night Before Christmas”. Includes vocabulary notes and discussion questions.

Twas the Night before Christmas

The Night Before Christmas

This classic poem is read to thousands of children on Christmas Eve (24 December, the day before Christmas Day). It was first published in 1823 and has been translated in many languages. Some of the language is outdated but it is still a charming poem and can be useful for learning some Christmas vocabulary. In my family it is a tradition for the father to read it to the children forwards and then backwards! You can see from the photo that our copy of the book is well loved. Thanks for listening. Happy Holidays!

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.”

stirring (verb): moving about
nestled (verb): resting comfortably and quietly
‘kerchief (noun): short for handkerchief (a wrap that you wear on your head)
nap (noun): a short period of sleep
clatter (noun): a loud sound
the matter (noun): something that is wrong, a problem (What is wrong?/What’s the matter?)
shutters (noun): window coverings
sash (noun): a rope that holds curtains together (or holds a housecoat or sweater or dress closed)
dash away (verb): go quickly
obstacle (noun): something that is in the way
tarnished (adjective): dirty
peddler (noun): a person who sells objects on a street
wreath (noun): a circular plant that is decorated with berries, ribbons, or lights and hung on a door
dread (verb): to fear or worry
down of a thistle (noun): the fluffy part of a sharp plant that you can blow away

1. Who is narrating the poem?
2. What was the atmosphere in the house like before St. Nick arrived?
3. How does the narrator describe St. Nick?
4. How does St. Nick enter and exit the home?
5. What is the rhyme scheme of the poem?
6. St. Nick is not referred to as a human in this poem. What type of character does the narrator call him?
7. Which famous reindeer is not mentioned in this classic? Why do you think this reindeer is missing?

show Answers

The Night Before Christmas was written by Clement C. Moore.
Read by Tara Benwell.

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