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'Twas The Night Before Christmas: Reading Comprehension

This reading comprehension is based on "'Twas The Night Before Christmas" which 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. In the past, this story was often read aloud to children on Christmas Eve to bring Christmas cheer.

Twas the Night Before Christmas

Used under Creative Commons license by USACE Europe District

The English used in this story has many simple words, but there are many words which are not so common in the modern world. For example, the verb 'nestle' means to lay in bed.

The children were nestled in bed = The children lying in bed.

Before reading you may want to review some of the more difficult vocabulary listed after the story.

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"

'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."

Key Vocabulary from the Story

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

Here are some comprehension questions based on 'Twas' the Night Before Christmas'. For each question, find the correct answer and click on the arrow for the answer:

  1. How many reindeer pull Santa Claus' sleigh? a) 6 b) 12 c) 8
  2. Why are there stockings hung by the fire? a) as a decoration b) to receive presents from Santa Claus c) to keep the children's feet warm
  3. In this story what is "a long winter's nap"? a) hibernation b) sleep for the night c) a 30 minute rest
  4. Why does the author get out of bed? a) to get something to eat b) to see what the noise outside is c) to wake the children
  5. What causes so much light outside? a) the reflection of the moon on the snow b) the street lamps c) it is mid-day
  6. Which animals transport Santa? a) horses b) dogs c) reindeer
  7. How do they transport Santa Claus and the sleigh? a) they fly b) they pull the sleigh on the snow c) the sleigh is motor driven
  8. What does Santa have in his bag? a) toys for the children b) food c) coal
  9. What kind of a figure does Santa have a) slim b) muscle man c) fat
  10. Is Santa a smoker? a) yes b) no
  11. What does Santa say to the author? a) he wants to know how the author is b) he wants to know about the children c) nothing
  12. How does he tell the author not to worry? a) with a wink of his eye b) he gives the thumbs up sign c) he tells him not to worry
  13. What is Santa's work? a) cleaning the chimney b) bringing presents to little children c) bringing the Christmas tree
  14. What is the last thing Santa shouts? a) good-night b) Happy New Year c) Merry Christmas

I hope you have enjoyed learning a little about the Christmas traditions in the United States. Merry Christmas to all!

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