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‘Twas the Night Before: Variations on a Christmas Theme

'Twas the Night Before: Variations on a Christmas Theme

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas” begins the classic holiday poem by Clement Clarke Moore. In addition to the many versions of the poem with numerous illustration styles and imaginings of Santa Claus, a number of authors have also written updated versions of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. As my daughter and I have been reading Christmas books for the holiday season, she and I have come across a number of variations of the classic poem that we quite enjoyed. Here are a few of our favorite variations on a classic Christmas theme.

‘Twas the Night B’fore Christmas: An African-American Version (1996)

” ‘Twas the night b’fore Christmas when all ’round the house, not a critter was stirrin’, not even a mouse,” begins ‘Twas the Night B’fore Christmas: An African-American Version by Melodye Rosales. Set on a small North Carolina farm at the turn of the century, the story changes from England in the early 1800s to the home of a black family in the early 1900s. Following the long tradition from slaves in the American South, Rosales retells the classic poem for an African American audience. With changes to the language straight from African American English, ‘Twas the Night B’fore Christmas: An African-American Version is perfect for the linguistically-minded reader (like myself!).

'Twas the Night B'fore Christmas: An African-American Version (1996) 1 'Twas the Night B'fore Christmas: An African-American Version (1996) 2

Ozark Night Before Christmas (2004)

” ‘Twere Christmas Eve, an’ mist a-crept off the crick. An’ the col’ winner drizzly was a-comin’ down thick,” begins Ozark Night Before Christmas by Amanda McWilliams with illustrations by James Rice. Set on a cold winter night in the Ozarks (the Ozark Mountains in the southern half of Missouri and an extensive portion of northwestern and north central Arkansas), this version of the classic poem tells of Santy’s visit in a boat with a pet raccoon to the little home of Paw, Maw, and their son. The language in the book reflects many of the well-known features of the English of the area including the a- prefix (although questionably used) and Ozarkian vocabulary (crick, holler, Bald Knobbers). Young readers will get a kick out of the changes to the original poem that reflect the culture of the region, and adults will have fun trying to wrap their tongues around the dialect reflected in the writing.

Ozark Night Before Christmas (2004) 1 Ozark Night Before Christmas (2004) 2

Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas (2000)

“It vas night before Christmas, und all over the farm, nothing vas schusslick, no cause for alarm,” begins Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas by Chet Williamson with illustrations by James Rice. Set on a farm in Pennsylvania Dutch country, this variation on the original poem finds the crotchety Belsnickel visit on Christmas Eve on an old-fashioned plow pulled by four cows and four steers. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch, Belsnickel more commonly visits than Santa Claus. In addition to the differing holiday folklore, this book also features the English of the Pennsylvania Dutch, which differs primarily in pronunciation (as well as vocabulary) from more standard Englishes. I found the guide on the last page of the book especially helpful in understanding the preceding poem.

Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas (2000) 1 Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas (2000) 2

Cajun Night Before Christmas (1973)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas an’ all t’ru de house dey don’t a t’ing pass not even a mouse,” begins Cajun Night Before Christmas by Trosclair with illustrations by James Rice and edited by Howard Jacobs. Set in the Bayou, this variation features St. Nicklus dressed in muskrat who rides in a skiff pulled by eight alligators. Written to reflect the Cajun dialect (dey, dem) and full of references to Cajun culture, this story is fun to read aloud for both children and adults alike.

Cajun Night Before Christmas (1973) 1 Cajun Night Before Christmas (1973) 2

An Irish Night Before Christmas (1995)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas and down the glen lane the candles they twinkled in each windowpane,” begins An Irish Night Before Christmas by Sarah Kirwan Blazek with illustrations by James Rice. Not far from the English setting of the original poem, this version takes place in Ireland with freckled Father Christmas dressed all in green who sails through the skies in a cart pulled by a donkey. Accompanying him are seven wee elves with Irish names like Sean, Patrick, and Cormac. Father Christmas and his elves enjoy a bit a whiskey and some stout while decorating the little Irish house — until the missus shoos the nighttime rascals out. Although based on a stereotypical image of an Irish home, this story is still a fun little read during the holidays.

An Irish Night Before Christmas (1995) 1 An Irish Night Before Christmas (1995) 2

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas (2003)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all round the bach not a possum was stirring; not one could we catch. We’d left on the table a meat pie and beer, in hopes that Santa Claus soon would be here,” begins A Kiwi Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and illustrated by Deborah Hinde. Kiwi is a nickname for the people of New Zealand. In this international version of the poem, a Santa dressed shorts and tank top and with a pet dog on his knee arrives riding a miniature tractor pulled by eight tiny sheep. With many references to New Zealand culture, this story is another fun read during the Christmas season. The illustrations are especially hilarious.

A Kiwi Night Before Christmas (2003) 1 A Kiwi Night Before Christmas (2003) 2

Prairie Night Before Christmas (1986)

” ‘Twas a cold Christmas eve on the Southwestern plain and the North wind was blowin’ through a broke winderpane,” begins Prairie Night Before Christmas written and illustrated by James Rice. On Christmas Eve in the Oklahoma panhandle, Santa Claus looses his reindeer amid a Midwestern winter storm. After enlisting the help of two lonesome cowpokes, he hitches eight longhorn steer to a wagon in the hopes of finishing his Christmas Eve visits. This version of the classic poem features dialect of the Midwest.

Prairie Night Before Christmas (1986) 1 Prairie Night Before Christmas (1986) 2

Texas Night Before Christmas (1986)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas in the cold wintry fog. Nary a critter was movin’, nor a lone prairie dog,” begins Texas Night Before Christmas written and illustrated by James Rice. This version of the classic poem seems to pick up right where Prairie Night Before Christmas left off. Santa Claus heads to Texas in a wagon pulled by eight longhorn steers. Written in a Texan dialect, this book is a cute holiday story for children in Texas as well as the Midwest and around the world.

Texas Night Before Christmas (1986) 1 Texas Night Before Christmas (1986) 2

La Nochebuena South of the Border (1993)

” ‘Twas la Nochebuean down south of the border. La casa was quiet; the rooms were in order,” begins La Nochebuena South of the Border written and illustrated by James Rice in Spanish and English. In this Mexican version of the classic poem, Papá Noel visits a little Mexican home in a cart pulled by eight burros. Told in both Spanish and English with Spanish words interspersed throughout the English version, this book is a perfect holiday read for children of both languages.

La Nochebuena South of the Border (1993) 1 La Nochebuena South of the Border (1993) 2

Librarian’s Night Before Christmas (2007)

” ‘Twas a cold Yuletide evening, and I wandered the stacks,” begins Librarian’s Night Before Christmas by David Davis with illustrations by Jim Harris. As a librarian shelves books on Christmas Eve and laments about the lack of funding for her library, she is surprised to see Santa arrive in a flying bookmobile. He brings wonderful gifts of books, new carpet, and paid overdue fees, making the library as good as new. Children will love the rhyming story, and adults will enjoy the allusions to great authors, books, and library controversies. Librarian’s Night Before Christmas is a perfect holiday read for a librarian or any family that loves books.

Librarian's Night Before Christmas (2007) 1 Librarian's Night Before Christmas (2007) 2

The Principal’s Night Before Christmas (2004)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the town all the students and teachers had settled right down,” begins The Principal’s Night Before Christmas by Steven L. Layne with illustrations by James Rice. Although all the teachers and students have gone home for the holidays, one poor principal is left at his school on Christmas Eve, tasked with solving the problems of the school such as standardized test, bus routes, field trips, and naughty bullies. When Santa Claus shows up with his elves, will the principal finally get to go home for Christmas?

The Principal's Night Before Christmas (2004) 1 The Principal's Night Before Christmas (2004) 2

Preacher’s Night Before Christmas (2006)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas at Spring Lane Creek Church, and Pastor McDougal was in quite a lurch,” begins Preacher’s Night Before Christmas by Steven L. Layne with illustrations by Carol Benioff. While preparing for the Christmas Even service, a preacher finds himself dealing with the problems of his congregation, all of whom seem to have forgotten the real meaning of the holiday. Then a man named St. Nick, whom the preacher at first assumes is a confused Santa Claus, shows up at the church. With the preacher and his flock finally remember the miracle of Christmas?

Preacher's Night Before Christmas (2006) 1 Preacher's Night Before Christmas (2006) 2

The Night Before Christmas in Arizona (2002)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas; the reindeer and Nick were flying down low over Route 66,” begins The Night Before Christmas in Arizona by Sue Carabine with illustrations by Shauna Mooney Kawaski. As he flies over the Grand Canyon with his reindeer, Santa Claus begins to wonder if he has grown too old to deliver Christmas cheer to the children of the world. Should he instead retire to Arizona with the other old folks? Children will love finding out what Santa decides. Children who live in Arizona will love reading about local places throughout the story.

The Night Before Christmas in Arizona (2002) 1 The Night Before Christmas in Arizona (2002) 2

A Rugrats Night Before Christmas (1999)

” ‘Twas the night afore Christmas — our house was real still. Not a baby was cryin’ — nope, not even Dil,” begins A Rugrats Night Before Christmas by David Lewman with illustrations by Sergio Cuan. In this retelling of the classic poem, the babies of Rugrats investigate some jingly noises on Christmas Eve night. Upon sneaking down the stairs, the babies discover Santa Claus placing presents under the tree. At first Angelica claims all the new toys as her own, but will even she find the spirit of giving in her heart?

A Rugrats Night Before Christmas (1999) 1 A Rugrats Night Before Christmas (1999) 2

The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas (2006)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the base only sentries were stirring — they guarded the place,” begins The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas by Trish Holland and Christine Ford with illustrations by John Manders. This variation of the classic poem takes place on an army base in the desert. The soldiers snuggle on their cots, waiting for the Santa of Soldiers: Sergeant McClaus. One solider wakes up in the middle of the night to the sound of a convoy. Will McClaus bring a bit of home to the soldiers on Christmas?

The Soldier's Night Before Christmas (2006) 1 The Soldier's Night Before Christmas (2006) 2

The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas (2008)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the hall not a creature was stirring, there was no sound at all,” begins The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas by Anne Muecke with illustrations by Nathan Hale. Set in a museum of natural history, this retelling of the holiday classic begins as a little boy drifts off to sleep. He is suddenly awoken by creaking noises and is surprised to find the dinosaur fossils across the street reforming into dinosaurs. According to Santosaur, the dinosaurs hold a ball every Christmas Eve!

The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas (2008) 1 The Dinosaurs' Night Before Christmas (2008) 2

A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas (2008)

” ‘Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Sark. Not a creature was stirrin’, not even a shark!” begins A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates with illustrations by Sabastia Serra. In a story that takes place on a ship on the high seas, pirates await a Christmas Eve visit from Sir Peg, a mean-looking pirate who emerges from the ocean pulled by eight seahorses. With his nasty look and pointy hook, do the pirates have someone to fear?

A Pirate's Night Before Christmas (2008) 1 A Pirate's Night Before Christmas (2008) 2

The Teachers’ Night Before Christmas (2001)

” ‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the town every schoolteacher scurried — They could not slow down,” begins The Teachers’ Night Before Christmas by Steven L. Layne with illustrations by James Rice. As the Christmas holiday approaches, the teachers at the school are feeling frazzled from dealing with parties, room moms, and rowdy children all day. Then Santa Claus appears in a bus wearing a sport coat with suede elbows. Will the teachers be able to prepare for their own Christmases in time?

The Teachers' Night Before Christmas (2001) 1 The Teachers' Night Before Christmas (2001) 2

Do you have a favorite variation of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas?

Image Credits

‘Twas the Night Before: Variations on a Christmas Theme © 2013 Heather Johnson
‘Twas the Night B’fore Christmas: An African-American Version (1996) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
‘Twas the Night B’fore Christmas: An African-American Version (1996) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Ozark Night Before Christmas (2004) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Ozark Night Before Christmas (2004) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas (2000) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Pennsylvania Dutch Night Before Christmas (2000) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cajun Night Before Christmas (1973) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Cajun Night Before Christmas (1973) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
An Irish Night Before Christmas (1995) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
An Irish Night Before Christmas (1995) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
A Kiwi Night Before Christmas (2003) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
A Kiwi Night Before Christmas (2003) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Prairie Night Before Christmas (1986) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Prairie Night Before Christmas (1986) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Texas Night Before Christmas (1986) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Texas Night Before Christmas (1986) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
La Nochebuena South of the Border (1993) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
La Nochebuena South of the Border (1993) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Librarian’s Night Before Christmas (2007) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Librarian’s Night Before Christmas (2007) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Principal’s Night Before Christmas (2004) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Principal’s Night Before Christmas (2004) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Preacher’s Night Before Christmas (2006) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
Preacher’s Night Before Christmas (2006) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Night Before Christmas in Arizona (2002) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Night Before Christmas in Arizona (2002) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
A Rugrats Night Before Christmas (1999) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
A Rugrats Night Before Christmas (1999) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas (2006) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Soldier’s Night Before Christmas (2006) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas (2008) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas (2008) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas (2008) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
A Pirate’s Night Before Christmas (2008) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Teachers’ Night Before Christmas (2001) 1 © 2013 Heather Johnson
The Teachers’ Night Before Christmas (2001) 2 © 2013 Heather Johnson

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