Detail from the original 1821 illustration for the first verse of "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight".

"Old Santeclaus with Much Delight" (also known simply as "Old Santeclaus") is an early 19th century American children's poem about Santa Claus. It first appeared in print in 1821 in a book called The Children's Friend: A New-Year Present to the Little Ones from Five to Twelve that was published by William B. Gilley of New York. In The Children's Friend, the poem appears alongside eight accompanying illustrations, one for each verse. Those illustrations are believed to be the first lithographs to have been printed in the United States.

The poem is notable for including the earliest known reference to Santa Claus traveling in a vehicle drawn by reindeer, shown to be a sleigh in the illustrations, and to Santa Claus delivering presents on Christmas Eve rather than on Saint Nicholas' Day (December 6). The accompanying illustrations include the earliest known depictions of Santa Claus wearing red clothes.

Although the name of the poet who wrote "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight" is not given in The Children's Friend, the poem is often attributed to Clement Clarke Moore, the man widely credited with writing the 1823 poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas".


The Children's friend. Number III. A New-Year's present, to the little ones from five to twelve. Part III (1821), page 3

Original 1821 illustration for the third verse of "Old Santeclaus with Much Delight".

In the first three verses of the poem, a third-person narrator states that Christmas Eve is the time when Santa Claus' reindeer take him through the frost and snow and over the chimney tops to deliver presents to well-behaved, obedient, honest and kind children. While making his deliveries, Santa Claus sees many different beds and stockings. Some of them are "white as snow and neatly mended", others appear to be "for pigs intended".

The remaining five verses of the poem are narrated by Santa Claus himself. Santa Claus says that he rewards good children by giving them gifts including apples, tarts, dolls, spinning tops, wagons and non-fiction books. He says that he never gives children fireworks because they are dangerous. He never gives children drums because they upset their mothers by making too much noise with them. He also says that he never gives children swords because they use them to frighten their little sisters. He does, however, include wooden guns among the presents that he distributes.

Whenever Santa Claus comes to the stocking of a child who is rude, stuck-up, disobedient or ungrateful or who lies, swears, fights or cheats, he leaves nothing but a long black wooden rod. Parents are expected to use those rods to beat their naughty children because, according to Santa Claus, it is the "dread command of God".

See also

External links

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