BOOK REVIEWS

The Night Before Christmas Reviews

UPDATE TIME: 2018-04-22 
Review Score: 4 out of 5 star From 3 user ratings
ISBN:1474814352
LANGUAGE:English

"If you have not yet heard this poem, first things first so that you have context to what I am talking about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upuUV...

I am going to review this poem in the context of two other previous Christmas reads I have read: one by Milton and one by Dickens.

Now in my review of On The Morning Of Christ's Nativity: Milton's Hymn, I talked briefly of the culture of Christmas surrounding Milton during his lifetime and how it was a very different one from today. Christmas was a very solemn holy day and when the puritan sect that he belonged to came to power, all celebrations and festivals were out lawed in Great Britain and Colonial America. This marks the real beginning of the so-called "war on Christmas" that American conservatives like to bring up every year around this time.

In my review of A Christmas Carol, I touched on the effect this book had on reversing the puritan tide in the U.K. and U.S. and how the novella universalized (rather than actually secularized) the holiday. A Christmas Carol did not so much remove the religious aspect of the holiday as much as it did moderate temper them for a wider audience, but many of these moderating tropes have been easily co-opted into a more religious tone and I do not think Charles Dickens had ever minded this happening (though I argue his intent was more socio-economic, than religious). Now, while in America we see over and over the struggle of how to celebrate Christmas, with some wanting it more religious focus, some wanting a more universalist focus, and the rest of us in-between, it can be argued that, ironically, one of the biggest factors to Christmas' universalization came not from "secularized" Great Britain, but from the United States, itself. That brings us to this poem.

This poem brought arguably the figure who ended the actual so-called "war on Christmas," Santa Claus/Father Christmas. Based on and still referred to (as in this poem) after the actual Saint Nicholas of Myra, Santa Claus has done more to give universal force to Christmas than any other figure or politician and this poem is ground zero of it all in modern times. In 1823, Rev. Cement Clark More of New York City wrote a poem for his kids and later had it anonymously published. This poem standardized the look of Santa Claus as well as his principle mode of transportation and the names of his reindeer at that time. Moore borrowed heavily from already know tropes about this character in all its forms across northern Europe and combined them into one person that has come to be recognized all over the world and is known to most kids who like the idea of a guy coming every year and giving them free stuff. If any force did more to take Christmas out of its Christian origins, it was this work.

We live in an era were people celebrate or take part in religious festivals for reasons besides being a part of said religion. I have seen non-Muslims fast during Ramadan, and non-Jews celebrate Hanukkah, Christmas is not the only holiday that gets universal appeal, but it simply the one that has lead the charge.
" said.

"I had never read this before, I'm pretty sure - we certainly never had a copy in our house nor any pre-Christmas tradition of reading it, nothing like that. Probably my primary school had an old copy but I don't think I was too interested. So this was a new reading experience for me, one I approached without any memories or sense of nostalgia to guide me. I got it because it's such a classic, and I believe it's the origin of Santa's sleigh and reindeer (which are named), though don't quote me on that.

I decided to get the original edition - I love the old style of illustrations and I didn't want anything changed or edited. It's a classic, after all! What I found was a really delightful poem that carries with it a great sense of expectation, anticipation and atmosphere, far more than I would expect, and the descriptions had that Narnia quality - it's the only word I can think to describe it, but basically I mean the way things looked in an age gone by, an older period that's nostalgic to us now.

It's not the children who discover St. Nicholas, but their father, who is woken by the "clatter" of a sleigh and eight small reindeer, who waits for him to exit the chimney. I love the descriptions of Saint Nick, some of which I've included here, followed by their accompanying illustrations:

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 pedler [sic] just opening his pack.


meeting st. nick

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.


Santa

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;


Stuffing stockings

I'm not sure how much of our current Santa mythology comes from this poem - I'll have to wait to find out when I read Gerry Bowler's Santa: A Biography later on - but whether it started anything or not, it's certainly played a big part in immortalising it all. Little has changed since this was published in 1912 - really the only thing different is that Santa was later dressed in Coca Cola colours for their own marketing, something we've been stuck with ever since. Another reason why I wanted the original, pre-Coca Cola illustrations.

This was a truly delightful read, in a purely nostalgic sense, and while I may not have grown up with it as a kid, it manages to bring back that sense of excitement and wonder and make you feel like a bit of a kid again, which is always a good feeling.
" said.

" This story is the original Santa Claus story, and you can see why the character is around to this day. " said.

" A Christmas tradition continued! " said.

" This is s fun classic children's book!! Love It!!! " said.

" I have to say that I like my illustrated physical book better because of the pics. Still, a wonderful poem to read at Christmas. " said.

" This is the perfect time of year to read this Christmas classic. To be honest I don't ever remember reading this as an adult and it brought back some precious childhood memories. I think every adult should read it at least once. " said.

" Referente a la edición latina. Es precioso, es un cuento en forma de poema, que habla de un niño que se levanta la noche de navidad y ve a Papá Noel. Es realmente bonito. Habla exclusivamente de todo lo relacionado con Papá Noel, no es religioso, eso me gustó. Me parece un libro perfecto para leerle a los niños en navidad. " said.

June 2018 New Book:

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