The Midnight Ride of Santa Claus

In 1941, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Dana wrote this parody—today we might say “mash-up”—of his grandfather’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” and “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” After trying to get it published in The New Yorker, Dana settled for having copies printed up for his family and friends.

The Midnight Ride of Santa Claus

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of the eight reindeer.
’Twas the night before Christmas, in Seventy-five;
Not a creature then stirring is now alive.
The lanterns were hung in the steeple with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The Yankees were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of Red Coats danced through their heads.
Haancock in his ’kerchief and Adams in his cap
Had just settled their brains for a long winter’s nap.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Santa Claus stood on the opposite side,
Ready to speed with gifts on his arm
For every Middlesex village and farm.
He chuckled with glee, as with gentle spanks
He patted each of his reindeer’s flanks.
Then he sprang to his sleigh and the bridle he turned,
For the Christmas lights in the windows burned.
A hurry of hoofs in the village streets,
Struck out by those reindeer fearless and fleet.
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark.
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The faith of two nations was riding that night;
And the spark, struck out by the reindeer’s feet,
Kindled the whole world into joy with its heat.

’Twas one by the village clock, yes one,
When Santa Claus rode into Lexington.
Hancock and Adams heard such a clatter
They sprang from their beds to see what was the matter.
They paused to listen and look down
On the snow-covered roofs of the little town.
In the darkness around them they seemed to hear
The measured tread of the eight reindeer.
When they saw that strange driver so lively and quick,
They thought for a moment: “It must be Old Nick!”
But a wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave them to know they had nothing to dread.
And they heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight:
“Merry Christmas! The British are...really all right!”

So through the night sped those eight reindeer
With a message of hope for “A Happy New Year!”
The bulk of the sleigh was magnified
By the funny fat man who sat inside
With his cherry-like nose and his little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly,
Bringing Christmas presents and not alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,
A carol in the darkness, a wreath on the door,
And sleigh-bells that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the past,
Through all our history, to the last,
The people will waken and listen and pause
For that midnight message of Santa Claus.
After P.R. in 1775
and C.C.M. in 1823
and H.W.L. in 1860
by H.W.L.D. in 1941

With the U.S. entering World War 2 that Christmas season, Harry Dana’s poem was notably more favorable to the British than his grandfather’s had been.