A Visit from St. Nicholas, more commonly known as The Night Before Christmas and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas from its first line, is a poem first published anonymously in 1823 and later attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, who claimed authorship in 1837. The poem has been called "arguably the best-known verses ever written by an American" and is largely responsible for some of the conceptions of Santa Claus from the mid-nineteenth century to today. It has had a massive effect on the history of Christmas gift-giving. Before the poem gained wide popularity, American ideas had varied considerably about Saint Nicholas and other Christmastide visitors. A Visit from St. Nicholas eventually was set to music and has been recorded by many artists.
On the night of Christmas Eve, a family is settling down to sleep when the father is disturbed by noises on the lawn outside. Looking out the window, he sees Saint Nicholas in a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer. After landing his sleigh on the roof, Saint Nicholas enters the house down the chimney, carrying a sack of toys. The father watches his visitor fill the stockings hanging by the fireplace, and laughs to himself. They share a conspiratorial moment before Saint Nicholas bounds up the chimney again. As he flies away, he wishes a, "Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night."
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