The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Tomie dePaola

In previous years we’ve seen a modern update and a tactile app version, but this folksy 1980 edition takes us about as close as it is possible to the mid 19th century America of its author Clement Moore’s imagination.

Tomie dePaola, author of the magic pasta pot adventures of Strega Nona, sets his version of The Night Before Christmas in his home in New Hampshire. It’s illustrated in an American folk art style complete with borders based on dePaola’s own collection of New England quilts.

America all covered in snow: one of the most alluring images of that nation’s intoxicating dream, and dePaola captures it beautifully. The pure white landscape rounding off the perfectly neat pilgrim houses. But paradise is about to receive a visitor filled with a different type of magic.

The genius of Moore’s story is in his depiction of Santa. This is no cuddly, jolly old grandpa, rather a winking, smoking, smirking old pedlar. He’s clearly not from round these parts and looks like he’d fit in better drinking and gambling in a backstreet bar than he would tending reindeer in Lapland.

You have to wonder where he got those gifts. Fallen off the back of a sleigh I wouldn’t wonder?

This idea of Santa as an unknown, and potentially untrustworthy visitor is shown in the worried faces of the parents peering through the living room door as Saint Nicholas dusts the coal off. We’re so used to scenes of children sneaking a peak at Santa, faces filled with wonder, it’s fascinating seeing how adults react at the sight of the wily old present bringer in their grate.

Happy Christmas to all. And to all a good night.









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