Wednesday, December 21, 2011


"And Mama in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap --”

That’s just the way it is at this time of year – our long nights are good for a long winter’s nap.  This first day of winter – the shortest day and longest night of the year – seems a fitting time to think about Clement C. Moore’s poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas, now often called The Night Before Christmas.

I wonder how many editions of The Night Before Christmas have been published since it first appeared in 1823. Moore was reportedly a scholarly man who quickly penned this poem and was more or less embarrassed to own it. He simply didn’t see it as important, and yet it is for this that we remember him. 

I have five different editions of The Night Before Christmas – three I’ve had since before I can remember.


This one is the “Little Golden Book” edition – and probably my favorite. 

This one, printed by Tell Well Press in 1952, was designed by Bill and Bernard Martin. It included “Santa’s New Whirly-Twirly Toy,” a charming punch-out paper mobile that my dad assembled for me. Unfortunately I lost it in the great wet spring of ’96 when our basement flooded. It’s okay – it was looking tired after 40+ years and the glitter had tarnished.

Apparently mobiles were popular in that era – the ‘50s – because various mobile designs and how to create them are featured in the BHG Christmas Ideas of 1954 – and again in 1957. “Delight your whole family with an eyecatching holiday mobile. Colorful moving decorations are fascinating to put together, intriguing to watch when they’re hanging from your ceiling, a wall bracket, or light fixture. To make a mobile, you don’t need much to start with and you’ll soon find that before you finish one, you already have ideas for another.” 

 Moving to my next edition, this one was probably meant to appeal to a very young child. It was published in 1949 by Whitman Publishing Co. and apparently illustrated by Eileen Fox Vaughan. The book is more like a large leaflet -- no cardboard cover -- and Santa's suit is fuzzy.

This one I bought for a pittance at an “after-Christmas” sale at the Hallmark Store in 2001. I was interested in the stated purpose of the book, a tribute to the Coca-Cola Santa, which is credited with forming America's perception of what Santa Claus looks like.
And this Platt & Munk edition illustrated by Holly Hobbie was actually published in 1970, but I missed it, so I ordered it well-used just this year. 

I love the poem, its history, and what illustrators do with it.

How about you? Do you have copies of the poem we now call The Night Before Christmas? KW


Hallie said...

If you look in the drawers in your guest room at the town house, you'll probably find one more. I had a very nice pop-up version. The front cover had two flaps that meet in the middle and tied with a ribbon. Dad used to read the poem to me, but he'd change the words for his own humorous version.

Kathy said...

Yes, your pop-up version is still there. I just didn't think about it. I don't remember where you got it.

Mike was reminiscing about his irreverent version of The Night Before Christmas last night.

See ya soon!

drMolly, the BeanQueen said...

A wonderful collection. The only one I can remember from my childhoood did not survive 7 children, LOL.
Have a good holiday & welcome, welcome New Year - I'm sure it will be a good one for all of us.