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A Visit from St. Nicholas

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A Visit from St. Nicholas, later ook bekend als Twas Night Before Christmas, is een gedicht dat voor het eerst anoniem werd gepubliceerd onder de titel Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas in 1823. Hoewel het oorspronkelijk anoniem was, wordt het later toegeschreven aan Clement Clarke Moore, die beweerde de auteur te zijn in 1837. Het gedicht beschrijft de kerstavond waarop een vader, na geluiden op zijn gazon te hebben gehoord, getuige is van de komst van de Kerstman op een slee getrokken door acht rendieren. De kerstman brengt cadeautjes en vult de kousen bij de open haard voordat hij vertrekt met de wens "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night" (vrolijk kerstfeest aan allen, en aan allen een goedenacht).

Interessant genoeg heeft het gedicht enige connectie met Nederlandse tradities. Clement Clarke Moore, de vermeende auteur, haalde inspiratie voor het personage van de kerstman van een lokale Nederlandse ambachtsman en de traditie van Sinterklaas. Ook heten twee van de rendieren Donner en Blitzen, wat waarschijnlijk is afgeleid van de woorden "donder en bliksem". Hierdoor wordt het auteurschap van Moore soms in twijfel getrokken, aangezien bekend was dat hij geen Nederlands sprak. Moore heeft veel kenmerken van de kerstman geïntroduceerd die tot op de dag van vandaag worden geassocieerd met het personage, waaronder het gebruik van rendieren.

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 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.”[1]