Carnegie Mellon University
December 22, 2015

"A Visit from St. Nicholas"


Carnegie Mellon University's special collection of books featuring a classic holiday poem has a new addition this year: "Olaf's Night Before Christmas Book and CD," a reimagination of a Christmas Eve night read by CMU alumnus Josh Gad as Olaf from Disney's "Frozen."

"'Twas the Night Before Christmas' has always been one of my favorite traditional Christmas stories. To have the opportunity to fuse Olaf with such a timeless classic is a dream come true," Gad (A 2003) said. "It is very surreal to pick up a version of ''Twas the Night Before Christmas' with a character I created on the cover and have the opportunity to read it to my children. They are both mesmerized and beyond confused as to how Daddy can channel Olaf so well."

The poem, formally called "A Visit from St. Nicholas," first appeared anonymously in The Troy Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823, and was credited to Clement Clarke Moore in 1837.

Its words have inspired artists and authors to interpret St. Nick's visit to a home many ways throughout the years. Nearly 400 versions of the story are part of a collection originally owned and started by Anne Lyon Haight. Her children donated the collection to CMU's University Libraries after her death in 1982.

Special Collections Librarian Mary Kay Johnsen said that there are several parodies on the text in the collection.

The collection includes materials like newspaper printings, hardcover editions, linen pages and cardboard Little Golden book variations. Some books are smaller than a walnut while others are illustrated by artists such as editorial cartoonist Thomas Nast, Grandma Moses, Jessie Willcox Smith, Arthur Rackham and Thelma Gooch.

Santa's sartorial sense has evolved over the years from a fur hat, jacket and knee britches to a hot pink suit in the 1960s. Most of the illustrations are red, but his coats have gone from lengthy ones to shorter versions that ended near the waist.

Gifts also have changed. For the most part, the toys in the books are traditional, like dolls, wooden items and drums. The first to show a dump truck was in 1937, and in a book published in1958 shows a jet airplane, a Betsy Wetsy doll and roller skates.

"I pinch myself every day that I am part of something that has resonated all over the world and continues to touch people daily." — Josh Gad (A 2003)

In the "Frozen" rendition, the Santa Claus is in a red suit adorned with a holly berry, and the gifts are things like ice skates, snowshoes and a snowglobe.

The recent book is just one part of Gad's participation in the "Frozen" franchise. The 2013 film produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios is the highest-grossing animated film of all time with more than $1.2 billion. Gad said the experience has been a "train I never saw coming."

"It was one of those things that just kept building more and more buzz until one day people were throwing around the word 'classic.' I pinch myself every day that I am part of something that has resonated all over the world and continues to touch people daily," he said.