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Cuairt San Nioclás / The Night Before Christmas

irish literature poems in irish

'A visit from St. Nicholas,' is perhaps the best known Christmas poem of all! It is more commonly known by the its opening line:

'Twas the night before Christmas

The poem was published anonymously in the New York Sentinel on December 23rd, 1823 and grew in popularity very quickly. It wasn't until 1837 that New Yorker, Clement Clarke Moore, claimed to be the author.


Conspóid / Controversy! 

The authorship of the poem is not without controversy, however! There are claims that the author was in fact a Major Livingstone, a distant cousin of Clarke Moore's wife. 

Whoever the author is this is the poem responsible for popularising so many of the Christmas traditions enjoyed today.


Na Réinfhia / The Reindeer

It is in this poem that the 8 reindeer of St. Nicholas are named for the first time:

Dasher / Ruagaire

Dancer / Ruóg

Prancer / Preabaire

Vixen / Radaire

Comet / Cóiméad

Cupid / Cúipid

Dunder / Toirneach

Blixem / Tintreach


An Naoú Réinfhia / The Ninth Reindeer

The most famous reindeer of all, Rudolph, didn't make an appearance until 1939 when he was first mentioned in Robert L. May's storybook 'Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer.'

Rudolph / Rúdolf


An Leagan Gaeilge / The Irish Version

Darach Ó Scolaí's translation of this poem won the De Bhaldraithe prize at the Oireachtas festival in 2023, and is an exquisite translation beautifully illustrated.

You can purchase the book directly from the Leabhar Breac website:

Leabhar Breac: Cuairt San Nioclás


Leagan Fuaime / Audio Version

Even better again, there is now an audio version of the poem. Click on the link below to actor MacDara Ó Fátharta's recitation:

Éist / Listen: Cuairt San Nioclás


Reading and Listening

Listening to Irish, while reading the text at the same time, is a really fantastic way to learn the Irish language. I highly recommend this book and accompanying audio recording for this purpose.

If you like learning Irish using literature and poetry make sure to check out the Learn Irish Through Literature and Learn Irish Through Poetry courses.

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