'Twas the night before Christmas,
When all thro' the house,
Not a creature was stirring,
Not even a mouse...An 1823 poem by Clement Clarke Moore about a visit from St. Nick. Originally titled and also known as "A Visit from St. Nicholas".Here it is as read by none other than the trumpet master Louis Armstrong, himself.
—The poems opening lines
The poem contains the following tropes:
- Adaptation Distillation: The poem crystallizes a number of ideas about St. Nicholas first found in Washington Irving's Knickerbocker History of New York.
- Big Fun: St. Nicholas has "a broad face, and a little round belly / That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly."
- Christmas Elves: St Nick himself is described as an 'elf' here, making this debatably the Ur-Example.
- Hollywood Darkness: Played with. "The moon on the crest of the newfallen snow / Gave a lustre of midday to objects below."
- Santa Claus: You were expecting maybe the Easter Bunny?
- Smoking Is Cool: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth / And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath." Of course, modern depictions of Santa don't usually smoke.
- Title Confusion: The poem was originally called A Visit from St. Nicholas, but its opening line is what everyone knows it by.
- Trope Codifier: As stated above, this little poem etched in stone a lot of the core image we have of Santa Claus.
- Unbuilt Trope: While most of the poem's depiction of Santa still matches the popular imagery, the idea of him as an "elf" with a "miniature sleigh" and "tiny reindeer" fell out of favor a long time ago.