‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (Poem with Explanations for English Learners)

'Twas the Night Before Christmas

Click below to download our PDF of “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

By Clement Clarke Moore

Explanations and Definitions

‘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;

‘Twas = It was
Stirring = moving
Stockings = a large sock that covers your foot and part of your leg
St. Nicholas = another name for Santa Claus

The children were nestled 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 down for a long winter’s nap,

Nestled all snug = sleeping comfortably
Visions = dreams
Sugar-plums = a kind of candy
‘Kerchief = a cloth to cover your hair ; cap = hat

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.

Clatter = noise
What was the matter = what was wrong
Flew like a flash = ran quickly
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash = opened the window

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow = the moon shone on The fresh snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day = so bright that it looked like it was noon

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;

St. Nick = Santa Claus
Coursers = fast horses (reindeer)

“Now, DASHER! now, DANCER! now, PRANCER and VIXEN!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry 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.

Leaves that before the wild hurricane fly = like leaves flying in a fast a wind
Meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky = when they hit an object they go up

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

Twinkling = an instant / a moment
Bound = jump

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.

Tarnished = dirty
Peddler = a seller

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;

Droll = funny, odd

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 bowlful of jelly.

Stump = base

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;

Jolly = happy
In spite of myself = didn’t mean to do it
Dread = fear

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,

Down of a thistle = white seeds that fly in the wind
Ere = before

Is the Night Before Christmas a Poem?

Yes, it is. The Night Before Christmas was published in 1823 and is actually called “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

What is the Poem About?

“Twas the Night Before Christmas” is about Santa coming to visit a house on Christmas eve. A father is woken up by the sounds of reindeer and sees Santa as he visits their house.

Other Christmas Resources from The Learner’s Nook

We have been putting out lots of other great Christmas content like this. Here is a full list of all things Christmas here at the Learner’s Nook this year.

Christmas Vocabulary
Best Christmas Songs for English Learners
A Christmas Carol (Story)
The Elves and the Shoemaker (Story)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Story)

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