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December 20, 2009

'Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas'

Special thanks to Jennifer Olson for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit http://jennifergrayolson.blogspot.com/.

December 20, 2009|By Anonymous

The very first time that children hung Christmas stockings for Santa Claus was on Christmas Eve, 1823. This custom spread around the country and indeed, the world, and has endured for 186 years. But why did this tradition begin? The reason is contained in the words of a poem that was published on Tuesday, Dec. 23, 1823, in the Troy Sentinel newspaper in upstate New York. It was called "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas." The author did not want his name known so it was published anonymously, as it is here.

In the words of that newspaper's editor, "We hope our little patrons, both lads and lasses, will accept it as proof of our unfeigned good will toward them -- as a token of our warmest wish that they may have many a merry Christmas. . ."

Account of a Visit

from St. Nicholas

'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 Saint 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 Saint 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, Dunder and Blixem! 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 Saint 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 Saint 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!"

Special thanks to Jennifer Olson for her illustration. To see more of her work, visit http://jennifergrayolson.blogspot.com/.

For more Kids' Reading Room, visit latimes.com/kids.

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