Christmas Poetry That Summons the Yule Spirit

'Night Before Christmas' is the best known but not the only example

A little girl hangs ornaments on the antlers of a deer

For many people, Christmas poetry plays a major role in the celebration of the holiday. Some famous Christmas poems are popular works devoted to the yuletide—none more prominent than "A Visit From St. Nicholas," often called "The Night Before Christmas—while others are parts of poetic works that honor the holiday and often embellish greeting cards and other seasonal messages.

These pieces lend the spell of Christmas to the season, recalling lost magic and adding subtle touches of beauty and romance to the holiday ambiance:

"A Visit From St. Nicholas," Clement C. Moore

Despite controversy over the provenance of "A Visit From St. Nicholas," it is widely believed that professor Clement C. Moore was the author. The poem was first published anonymously in the Troy (New York) Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823, though Moore later claimed authorship. The poem famously starts:

"'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."

This poem and cartoonist Thomas Nast's images of a rotund Santa beginning with an 1863 Harper's Weekly magazine cover are largely responsible for our image of St. Nick:

"He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself"

For a spin on the holiday tradition, you might enjoy "Cajun Night Before Christmas," especially if you're an aficionado of southern Louisiana culture:

" 'Twas the night before Christmas
An' all t'ru de house
Dey don't a t'ing pass
Not even a mouse.
De chirren been nezzle
Good snug on de flo'
An' Mama pass de pepper
T'ru de crack on de do'."

"Marmion: A Christmas Poem," Sir Walter Scott

Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott was well known for his narrative style of poetry. His most famous work is "Lay of the Last Minstrel." This extract is from another of his best-known poems, "Marmion: A Christmas Poem," written in 1808. Scott was famous for vibrant storytelling, imagery, and detail in his poems:

"Heap on the wood!
The wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We'll keep our Christmas merry still."

"Love's Labour's Lost," William Shakespeare

These lines from Shakespeare's play are spoken by Lord Berowne, a noble who attends to the king. Though it wasn't written as a Christmas poem, these lines are often used to add a seasonal touch to Christmas cards, greetings, and social media status updates:

"At Christmas I no more desire a rose,
Than wish a snow in May's new-fangled shows;
But like of each thing that in season grows."

"Love Came Down at Christmas," Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti's "Love Came Down at Christmas," which has a lyrical, melodious beauty, was published in 1885. Rossetti, who was Italian, was famous for her romantic and devotional poems, and her views about Christmas bore an Italian influence:

"Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign."

"Christmas Bells," Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was one of the most revered American poets. His poem "Christmas Bells" is a deeply touching work written soon after his beloved son Charley was seriously wounded fighting in the Civil War. Having already lost his wife in a freak fire accident, Longfellow was a broken man. His words come from the depth of sadness:

"I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on Earth, good-will to men!"