“A Visit from St. Nicholas” seems to have made an immediate impression after appearing in print in 1823. It was reprinted and re-reprinted, and in the New-York Evening Post it was retitled and accidentally abridged. The editor (or the printer) also made some substitutions: “Blixem” is now “Blixen,” the children are “nested” instead of “nestled” in their beds (a cozy image still), and St. Nick fills “his stockings” instead of “the stockings.” Weirder was to come, however, when the Post ’s version was reprinted in The New-England Galaxy and United States Advertiser a week later.

“Christmas Times” (from New-York Evening Post, 29 December 1828; p. 1, col 6)
Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus.

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro’ 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 nested 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 wandering eyes should appear,

But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,

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! now, Vixen.

On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Dunder and Blixen;

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!”

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,

When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky:

To 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 was flung on his back,

And he look’d like a pedlar 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 bowl full of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laugh’d 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 fill’d all his stockings: then turned with a jerk,

And laying his fingers 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.”

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