Who can resist Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas”? And who can resist penning a parody of the popular poem? We are presenting several riffs on Moore’s famous tale over the next several days and will end with the original on Christmas Eve.
The collection will be online and updated daily at tucson.com/visit
An Account of a Visit From St. Nicholas, by Clement Clarke Moore
From the Arizona Daily Star Sunday, Dec. 21, 2008:
Clement Moore’s “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”
‘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 sugarplums danced in their heads;
And Mama 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 midday 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, Donner and Blitzen!
“To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
“Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As 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 in 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 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.”
The Night Before Christmas in Tucson
This is David Fitzsimmons’ take on the classic, which ran in the Arizona Daily Star Saturday, Dec. 23, 2017:
’Twas the night before Christmas in Tucson
By David Fitzsimmons
’Twas la noche before Christmas and all through the casita
Not a creature was stirring,
Not a packrat, not a jackrabbit, not even mamacita.
Our chile peppers were hung with mucho cuidado.
We picked them up at a market in Tubac.
Just south of Amado.
“Papa! We cleaned the chimenea!”
Such a good boy. Such a good daughter.
For Santa they set out one empanada,
Two tamales and a tall cold horchata!
Los niños couldn’t sleep! They were wired! They were loco!
We filled them with stories and delicious hot cocoa.
Mis niños finally settled down all snug in their beds,
With visions of churros and piñatas dancing in their heads.
Mamacita said that our work here was done.
It was time for us to have some Christmas fun.
We were about to enjoy a Christmas Eve snooze,
When we were both shocked awake by late-breaking news.
The KOLD weatherman said, “Santa is coming!
“D-M has launched the A-10s! Their jet engines are humming!
“NORAD’s spotted Santa. He’s coming in fast, he’s coming in low!
“Tomorrow we can expect sunny skies. With no chance of snow.”
He’s flying near Tortolita!
“What’s this? Now he’s zooming over Pusch Ridge!”
Santa sailed straight on through downtown!
“He’s where? He’s under the Rattlesnake Bridge!”
There wasn’t a camp or casita that the old Saint didn’t enter.
He barnstormed South Sixth, Kino Hospital, the Diamond Children’s Center,
The Gospel Mission, Wagon West Trailer Park and the County Jail, too!
He even stopped in to pet all the anteaters at Reid Park Zoo!
We stepped outside on that fine Christmas Eve to see what we could see.
Just a billion stars, the Catalinas, mamacita and me.
And then we both heard a marvelous sound.
Such jingling and jangling — we turned around!
What I saw next made me swear off any more trips to the cantina.
It was a buckboard wagon pulled by eight tiny, stinky javelina!
Cracking the whip was a little old driver, so lively and game,
He whistled and “Yeehawed!” as he called each of his varmints by name.
“On, Vato! On, Stinker! On, Furball and Musky!
“On, Piggy! On, Porky! On, Rosa and Tusky!
“To the top of the pueblo! to the top of the wall!
“Andele! Andele! dash away all!”
Up to the top of the hacienda his javelina, they flew,
With a sleigh full of toys, and good old San Nicolás, too.
And then, in a twinkling, we heard on the roof
The scratching and pawing of each little hoof.
And snorting and grunting. And the musky smell was not very nice.
Those javelina really could use a splash of some pumpkin spice.
Down through the chimenea Santa arrived.
The niños were zonked. It was 1:45!
Santa was covered with cactus spines and dirt!
“Did you hit a big cactus? Did you get hurt?”
He laughed as he brushed the dust off his belly
That shook when he laughed like prickly pear jelly.
He told me he loved the Old Pueblo, every boy and girl,
And when he retires he just might give Sun City a whirl.
He told me there’s more Christmas in a desert than anywhere else.
“Open your heart to its mystical call!
“It was in a desert where miracles came to pass long ago.
“Let the stars above inspire you all.”
He filled all the stockings. I gave him his drink and his empanada.
I thanked him for all the kind gifts, especially the piñata!
He winked and said, “I’m impressed by your Spanish.”
Then up our chimenea he vanished!
He snapped the reins on his eight javelinas,
Winked, and flew out over the Catalinas.
As he circled the Old Pueblo he said his farewells,
Singing “Feliz Navidad” and jingling his bells.
He wished for us all this hopeful scenario:
“Let peace and love reign in every barrio!”
And I heard him shout as he flew out of sight,
“Merry Christmas, Tucson! And to all a good night!”
The Night Before Christmas family style, 1974
This version of the poem ran in the Tucson Citizen, Monday, Dec. 23, 1974:
St. Nick’s dusty Tucson entrance
By Don Shellie
Normally we shy away from verse in this department, but this Tucson parody of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” was too good to pass up. It started as a school assignment and became a family project for the Faulkners — Bob, Jo, Casey, Jody, Molly and Duffy — of 4102 E. 6th St.:
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the state,
Not a snowflake was falling, our usual fate.
The bikinis were hung by the poolside to dry,
There wasn’t a sign of a cloud in the sky.
The children were coughing and wheezing like mad,
Which, of course, did not make their allergist sad.
Mom in her baby-dolls, me in my shorts,
Were all tuckered out from our day on the courts.
When on the ramada there arose such a roar,
Davis-Monthan was flying a squadron or more.
Away to the patio in a wild, frantic tear,
Missed the step, “Oh, my! That old prickly pear!”
The moon on the sand was a beautiful sight,
The cactus and sage were an artist’s delight.
When, what in the world should appear there to me,
But a little old gun in a red dune buggy.
The little old man was both lively and slick,
Surely it could be — it must be, St. Nick.
With a rattle and bang, his buggy it came,
Energy, making dust devils seem tame.
Neither cactus nor rattlers nor wild tumbleweed,
Seemed to have an effect on its startling speed.
To the very tip top of the adobe wall,
To the end of the garden, ocotillo and all.
As brown waters beneath the overpass flow,
When our seasonal rains and windstorms do blow.
So up to the cedar shakes his buggy it flew,
With a seatful of goodies for me and for you.
And then in a minute I heard on the grate,
The rumble and roar of his little V-8.
As I crossed by the pool and was turning around,
Down the cooler vent Santa came with a bound.
He was dressed all in denim from his head to his boot,
His clothes were all Western, a real cowboy suit.
An old saddlebag he had slung, peddler-like,
He looked like a prospector, out for a hike.
His eyes behind fancy Polaroid shades,
Were protected from glare and hot desert haze.
His wrinkle-lined face, all weathered and tan,
Burned by the sun and the old weatherman.
A small black cigarro was stuck in his face,
Smoke hung like a cloud all over the place.
He was dusty and sandy and windblown, too,
Not surprising — consider all he’d been through:
Arroyos and mountains, plateaus and mesas,
And occasionally even a lush green oasis.
He brushed off his duds, gave his Stetson a shake,
His spurs going jungle, with each move he’d make.
Then he started to bring from his saddlebag full,
All sorts of toys, with a tug and a pull.
When at last there were goodies stacked here and there,
Selected with typical Westerner care.
He sprang from his work, straight forward he tore,
With much fuss and ado, toward the sliding glass door.
He leaped for his car with a bound that was game,
His skill and agility put bronc-busters to shame.
He was quickly gone, yet he paused to say,
“Adios to y’all, and have a nice day!”
The Night Before Christmas with safety first, 1995
This safety version ran in the Tucson Citizen Tuesday, Dec. 19, 1995:
A HOLIDAY VERSE PUTTING SAFETY FIRST
(or, “’Twas The Night Before Christmas, Part Deux”)
‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the city
Folks had decorated homes and trees to look pretty.
Our lights were wound around bushes and beams,
Hooked by more extension cords than you’ve ever seen.
The tinsel and angel hair glittered so bright,
Snuggled close to the heat from each colored light.
A blaze in the fireplace, each candle aflame
Produced such a glow, that no darkness remained.
Plugged into the outlet, the cords all connected;
Small wonder, I guess, electricity was affected.
Away from the tree I jumped when it flashed,
Gathered my family, from the house we all dashed.
Shrieks from our smoke alarm were piercing the air
As neighbors gathered ‘round us, close as they dared.
A fire truck pulled up; the guys knew what to do
They put out the fire, then one talked with us, too.
“Each holiday season, and throughout the year,
“Use fire safety to protect all that’s dear.
“More rapid than bullets, a fire can destroy;
“Children must learn it’s a tool, not a toy.
“Keep matches and lighters away from their hands;
“Keep cords from dangling; turn in handles on pans.
“The plugs in your outlets should not be a crowd;
“One per receptacle is all that’s allowed.
“Avoid the adapters that allow you to cheat;
“Power strips with breakers stop electrical heat.”
The firefighter was tired and ready for bed,
But wanted to leave nothing important unsaid:
“You know you were lucky; this fire’s over, no doubt.
“Your house is still standing and everyone got out.
“Your Christmas may be short a present or two,
“And smoke damage can sure make a family feel blue.
“But tomorrow you’ll wake up and still have each other;
“Your children will still have both father and mother.
“The mess will get cleaned up, and life will keep going,
“And you’ll be much safer because you’ll be knowing
“That fire can be deadly! We must try our best
“To practice fire safety, our detectors to test.”
He looked at my family and nodded his head;
Then spoke to me softly, “Hope enough’s said.”
By the time that he left, I’d thought through my mistake
And vowed from then on all precautions to take.
I hope all of you will relate to my reasons
All I want for Christmas is a safe holiday season!
The Night Before Christmas, sports version, 1959
This version ran in the Tucson Citizen sports section on Thursday, Dec. 24, 1959:
SAN FRANCISCO — ’Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the land
The bidding for athletes
Was clear out of hand.
America’s eager young stars,
Just getting out of school,
Were looking for big money
And starting to drool!
For Sixty Thousand Dollars,
The Spartans’ Dean Look
Signed with the White Sox
As a baseball rook.
Southern Methodist’s Meredith,
A quarterback supreme,
Got One Hundred Thousand
— And that’s not a dream.
Billy Cannon of LSU,
Refused to sign anything,
Keeping all in a stew.
The bidding for good coaches
Was pretty grand, Dad.
And the money being offered
You couldn’t call bad.
Pete Elliott quit California
When Illinois waved.
Eddie Erdelatz is looking
On money he saved.
Joe DeMaggio and Tyrus Cobb
Both struck it rich.
They collected big money
Off bundles of hits.
With money stacked in the banks
All athletes made a pile
And even the most humble
Will make more than I’ll.
But who are we to complain
About our storm and strife.
So Merry Christmas to all!
And to all a good life!
The Night Before Christmas in the department store, 1913
This version was reprinted in the Arizona Daily Star Sunday, Dec. 21, 1913, originally from the Ladies’ Home Journal:
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas
By Alice Jaynes (Ladies’ Home Journal)
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all in the shop,
Not a salesgirl nor wrapper but thought she would drop;
The cash children rushed with the money with care,
With wan faces strained, thither they fled,
While visions of reprimands flashed through each head,
At an hour when rich children were tied in nightcaps,
And settling themselves for their long winter naps.
From tables and counters arose such a clatter
Some terrible tragedy must be the matter;
The lights from the shining bulbs, white in their glow,
Gave luster of midday to objects below.
A salesgirl was selling small gifts. Like a flash
She tore open boxes and counted out cash,
When what to my wondering ears should resound,
But a shrewish abuse you could hear aisles around,
From a woman, well gowned, who came just to kick,
I knew in a minute she was “the Old Nick.”
She was dressed all in fur from her feet to her head,
And a comfortable feeling of opulence shed.
More rapid than reindeer, reproaches they came,
As she scolded and called the poor girl a harsh name.
“How stupid! You vixen! Don’t dare answer back!
I’ll report you at once for being so slack.
My gifts never came. Now where can they be?
How such things can happen I really can’t see!”
And giving a nod, up the store aisle she sailed,
Full of wrath that her own “Merry Christmas” had failed.
The salesgirl so pale went straight to her work,
For dozens of buyers forbade her to shirk.
Hours and hours played the drama, long after she’d gone,
Delivery boys, women, cash girls struggled on.
In hundreds of stores, in many a city,
This spells “Merry Christmas.” Oh! Good people, pity!
A Borderland 'Night Before Christmas,' 1965
This borderland version ran in the Tucson Citizen on Dec. 24, 1965:
A Borderland Version Of Christmas Classic
By Don Shellie
At the request of several readers, this Southwestern version of “The Night Before Christmas” is reprinted. The poem has been making the rounds for many years and was “borrowed” by this column several seasons ago. The author is unknown.
’Tis the night before Christmas
And all through the casa;
Not a creature is stirring,
Caramba! Que pasa?
The stockings are hanging,
Con mucho cuidado;
In hopes that San Nicolas
Will feel obligado,
To leave a few cosas,
Aqui and alli,
For Chico y Chica
(Y something for me).
Los niños are snuggled
All safe in their camas,
(Some in vestidos
And some in pajamas).
Their little cabezas
Are full of good things
They’re all esperando
Que Santa will bring.
Santa esta at the
Muy borracho since
Mama is sitting Beside la ventana,
Shining her rolling pin,
When Santa returns to
His home zigzagueando,
Lit up like the
Star Spangled Banner, Cantando,
And Mama will send him
To bed with a right,
Merry Christmas a todos,
Y a todos, good night!
The Night Before Christmas, 1912
This version ran in the Arizona Daily Star Saturday, Dec. 22, 1912:
The Night Before Christmas
By Wilbur D. Nesbit
“ ’Tis the night before Christmas” —
I whisper the rhyme
And wander in fancy
To “once on a time.”
I see the big fireplace,
The girls and the boys,
The long, heaped-up stockings,
The drums and the toys.
“ ’Tis the night before Christmas” —
So old, and so new!
With all of its dreamings
So good and so true.
I see all the faces
Forgotten so long,
And out of the twilight
There murmurs a song.
“ ’Tis the night before Christmas” —
And here, by my grate,
The past rises, glowing;
The years lose their weight.
The boy-days come trooping
At memory’s call,
And gleam in the embers
That flicker and fall.
“ ’Tis the night before Christmas” —
Ah, could I but clutch
The gold of my fancies!
’Twould go at my touch!
The shouts and the laughter
Now sweet to my ear
Would shrink to a silence
Too deep and too drear.
“ ’Tis the night before Christmas” —
As sweet as the cherished
Frankincense and myrrh.
And, hark! As the visions
Grow dim to the sight,
There comes: “Merry Christmas!
And, boy-days, good night!”
A Visit from St. Nicholas, 1988
This ran in the Tucson Citizen Saturday, Dec. 24, 1988:
A VISIT FROM ST. NICHOLAS, 1988
Editor’s note: It’s Christmas Eve and John Jennings, that jolly old columnist with the rosy cheeks and the rotund girth, is busy delivering a Christmas present to the Citizen’s readers. With profound apologies to Clement Clarke Moore’s 1823 poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” Jennings offers us an updated version.
‘Tis the night before Christmas
and the house is all quiet
as I read all the details
of Oprah’s new diet.
My wife, who has whirlpooled,
Lies beside me in sleep,
Her Retin-A glow
Is much more than skin deep.
Our new antique quilt
lies there at our feet
As we stretch out in comfort
On mauve satin sheets.
Down the hall are the suites
Of young Geoffrey and Wendy,
Whose closets fair bulge
With things tasteful and trendy.
The townhouse is brightly
Lit for the season.
Our gardener’s efforts
Are creative and pleasin’.
A 20-foot spruce
In the living room climbs
(that cathedral ceiling
Comes in handy at times).
On the limbs are displayed
The newest design
From Old Santa Fe.
In the hopes that St. Nicholas
Soon might appear,
We left blue corn chips, salsa
And Australian beer.
Brightly wrapped presents
Are piled in profusion
So there’ll be no confusion.
For Wendy, 15, we’ve bought
Things that’ll suit her:
A nifty hair crimper
And a hard-disk computer.
A few dozen examples
Of designer clothes,
And a surgery voucher
For a redesigned nose.
For Geoff, just 7,
His presents will be
Nintendo, a dirt bike
And a big-screen TV.
A laser-light gun,
A remote-control car,
A new CD player
And an electric guitar.
For the exercise room
A family surprise
A Nautilus gizmo
To shape up our thighs.
My wife gets a hairbrush
Of native-carved bone
And for her BMW,
A cellular phone.
A Cuisinart system
That matches the toaster
I bought her last year
To go with the Oster
A small coffee grinder,
And just what she’s wanted,
A new sushi maker.
Books on the homeless
On bonding, cocooning,
And a sexy new dress
That’ll have her friends swooning.
The kids’ gift for me
Is no problem to guess:
To record “thirtysomething,”
A new VHS.
From my wife, graphite gold clubs
To sharpen my game
And a real leather bag
Embossed with my name.
And if all my hints
Have been listened to:
An L.L. Bean “world’s best”
As I lie here reflecting
On things great and small,
A voice from outside
My name seems to call.
A glance at my Rolex
Shows it’s a quarter to 1,
And I almost reach for
My German handgun.
But I finally decide
It is nothing of harm
Or it would have triggered
The intruder alarm.
I go to the window,
Crank open the minis
And am nose-to-nose
With a man far from skinny.
“I’m Santa,” says he,
“And I can hardly believe,
“When I checked on my list,
“That there’s nothing to leave.
“It seems every new gadget
“You’ve already bought up,
“And your name’s on the list
“For things not even thought up.
“So I’ll offer best wishes,
“Then be on my way.
“It’s for others, less well-off,
“I’ve loaded my sleigh.”
He speaks to his reindeer,
And away they all dash
As I grab my electronic
Camera with flash.
It seems the split-second
Is all that he needs
To get cleanly away.
But I hear him exclaim
As he rides out of sight,
“Yuppie Christmas to all,
And to all, gouda night!”