The Night Before Christmas (1905)

The Night Before Christmas (1905)

Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas had a huge influence over the modern perception of Christmas and gift-giving, perhaps kick-starting the commercialisation of the festive period and the revival of the figure of Father Christmas.

Santa Claus appeared in film shorts as early as 1897, and the first Christmas film, George Albert Smith's Santa Claus followed a year later. Despite being only a minute long, Santa Claus features a number of clever special effects, including a picture within a picture, and was one of the most sophisticated films of the late 1800s.

In 1905, Edwin S. Porter decided to adapt Moore's poem for the Edison Manufacturing Company in what would become the first film adaptation of the famous verse. He named his film The Night Before Christmas, after the poem's opening line.

Porter's film validates the mythology of Santa, and opens with him tending his reindeer on Christmas Eve before switching to a family unit putting up their stockings - a scene which would have been instantly recognisable as Christmas in the early 20th Century.

The film is broken up with intertitles which quotes lines from the poem as an introduction for the next scene. Not to be outdone by the effects seen in Santa Claus, Porter included an intricate diorama showing Santa's journey to the family's home and after coming down the chimney there is a smooth jump cut as Santa works his magic on the Christmas tree.

The film ends - perhaps unsurprisingly - with Santa wishing a "Merry Christmas to All | And to All a Good Night".

You can watch The Night Before Christmas in full below:


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