'Twas the Night Before Christmas: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

The night before Christmas is an exciting time for most children…so exciting that someone wrote a famous poem about it! In this lesson, you will learn all about the poem 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.

A Mysterious Christmas

Imagine that you are asleep in your bed on Christmas Eve. All of sudden, a loud noise wakes you up. You spring from your bed and open the window only to see Santa and his sleigh down below! How would you feel? What would you do? This is the exact situation the author of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas described in the poem.

These lines from the poem describe the author, a father, investigating a strange noise on the lawn on Christmas Eve night.

Lines from Twas the Night Before Christmas

Throughout the poem, the author continues to describe what Santa Claus looks like and what he does, giving the reader a mental picture of what Santa does while you are asleep.

Shaping Santa Claus

'Twas the Night Before Christmas was initially published in 1823 as 'A Visit from St. Nicholas.' St. Nicholas was a real person born in the 3rd century who used his wealth to help others, including children. Throughout the years, St. Nicholas became known as the Santa Claus we know today. Who knew the jolly old guy in a red suit was actually based on a real person?

The author of the poem wasn't listed at the time it was published. In 1844, the poet Clement Clarke Moore claimed that he had written the poem in 1822 for his children to read on Christmas Eve; however, other people think that Henry Livingston, Jr. may have written the poem, although he didn't claim to have done so. What a mystery!

Many people believe that 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and other books and poems published during the same time helped influence what people thought Santa looked like. In the poem, the author describes several things about how Santa Claus looked:

  • He was dressed in fur
  • He had a rosy cheeks and a cherry-like nose
  • He had a beard as white as snow
  • He had a round belly

Many famous painters and illustrators in the years following began to draw a Santa Claus that looked very much like this description. One famous example is the illustrator that drew the picture of the Santa Claus used on Coca-Cola bottles. Look at the famous picture of Santa Claus. Can you recognize some of the descriptions from the poem in the image?

Twas the Night Before Christmas 1972 postage stamp
postage stamp

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