'Twas The Night Before Christmas

Reading Comprehension for English Language Learners

twas the night before christmas illustration
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'Twas The Night Before Christmas is one of the most traditional Christmas readings in English speaking countries. Written in 1822 by Clement C. Moore, 'Twas The Night Before Christmas tells the story of Santa's arrival on Christmas Eve at a typical American household.

Imagine it is Christmas Eve and you are sitting around the fireplace drinking a nice cup of Egg Nog (a typical Christmas drink made with eggs, cinnamon, milk and other ingredients sometimes including a good bit of rum) anxiously awaiting Christmas Eve. Outside the snow is falling and all the family is together. Finally, someone in the family takes out "'Twas The Night Before Christmas"
Before reading you may want to review some of the more difficult vocabulary listed after the story.

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

'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;
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,
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.
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,
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;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
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.
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.
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.
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;
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.
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;
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,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night."

Important Vocabulary

This version of the story highlights difficult vocabulary in bold. English learners or classes can first learn difficult vocabulary and then move on to listening or reading the story themselves in class. Reading through 'Twas The Night Before Christmas also makes a great pronunciation exercise for the whole class.

The vocabulary is in the order it appears in "'Twas The Night Before Christmas"
'Twas = It was
stirring = movement
nestled = comfortably in place
'kerchief = handkerchief
clatter = noise
sash = window covering that is pulled down from inside the room
shutters = window covering that is opened from outside the window
lustre = glow, illumination
sleigh = Santa Claus' vehicle, also used in Alaska with dogs
St. Nick = Santa Claus
Coursers = Animals which draw a sleigh
Porch = terrace
dash away = move onwards quickly
twinkling = a second
bound = a jump
tarnished = dirty
soot = black waste material found inside a chimney
bundle = bag
peddler = someone who sells things on the street
dimples = indentations on the cheeks
merry = happy
droll = funny
encircled = circle around
belly = stomach
dread = to be afraid of
jerk = quick movement
down of a thistle = the light material on a certain type of weed that floats away in the air
ere = before

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Your Citation
Beare, Kenneth. "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/reading-comprehension-twas-the-night-before-christmas-1211199. Beare, Kenneth. (2020, August 27). 'Twas The Night Before Christmas. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/reading-comprehension-twas-the-night-before-christmas-1211199 Beare, Kenneth. "'Twas The Night Before Christmas." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/reading-comprehension-twas-the-night-before-christmas-1211199 (accessed June 9, 2023).