Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

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A 19th Century printing of the standard words and music of this song, appearing in Franklin Square Song Collection, No. 1, which was published in 1881 by John Piersol McCaskey.

"Jolly Old Saint Nicholas" is a Christmas song that originated with a poem by Emily Huntington Miller (1833-1913), published as "Lilly's Secret" in The Little Corporal Magazine in December 1865. The song's lyrics have also been attributed to Benjamin Hanby, who wrote a similar song in the 1860s, Up on the Housetop. However, the lyrics now in common use closely resemble Miller's 1865 poem.[1][2][3]

The music has been attributed to John Piersol McCaskey, a school principal and former Mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who claimed to have written the song in 1867.[4][5] The "Johnny" mentioned in the song who wants a pair of skates is McCaskey's late son, John, who died as a child.[4]

McCaskey's 1881 publication that included Jolly Old Saint Nicholas attributed it to School Chimes, A New School Music Book, published by S. Brainard's Sons in 1874, written by the hymn composer James Ramsey Murray[6][6] Some notable recordings were by Ray Smith in 1949, Chet Atkins in 1961, Eddy Arnold in 1962, The Chipmunks in 1963, Andy Williams in 1995, Anne Murray in 2001, and Carole King in 2017.


This is the original published song in 1881:

Jolly old Saint Nicholas
Lean your ear this way;
Don't you tell a single soul
What I'm going to say,
Christmas Eve is coming soon;
Now now dear old man,
Whisper what you'll bring to me;
Tell me if you can.
When the clock is striking twelve,
When I'm fast asleep,
Down the chimney broad and black
With your pack you'll creep;
All the stockings you will find
Hanging in a row;
Mine will be the shortest one;
You'll be sure to know.
Johnny wants a pair of skates;
Susy wants a dolly
Nellie wants a story book,
She thinks dolls are folly
As for me, my little brain
Isn't very bright;
Choose for me, dear Santa Claus,
What you think is right.

In The Chipmunks' version of the song, Alvin, Simon and Theodore's names are mentioned instead. "Alvin wants a pair of skates, Simon wants a sled, Theodore a picture book, yellow blue and red."

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mrs. Alfred Gatty, ed. (March 1869). Aunt Judy's May-Day Volume For Young People. 6. Bell and Daldy, London. p. 316.
  2. ^ "Jolly Old St. Nicholas". The Hymns and Carols of Christmas. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  3. ^ "Jolly Old St. Nicholas". Band Music Library. Tuxedo Union Free School District. Retrieved January 27, 2016.
  4. ^ a b McCaskey, Patrick (2013-05-05). "J.P. McCaskey remembered on anniversary". LNP. Archived from the original on 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  5. ^ Steadman, John (2000-05-24). "Bears' McCaskey a throwback to NFL founding owner Halas". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  6. ^ a b [1]

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