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][4] Some people have also attributed the lyrics to John Piersol McCaskey[5][6] -a song editor and publisher, among other things, at the time.[5][7] His great great grandson has said he wrote the song in 1867, and that the "Johnny" mentioned in the song who wants a pair of skates, is McCaskey's late son, John, who died as a child.[5] However, there is no known evidence for this. McCaskey's own published 1881 book, Franklin Square Song Collection No. 1, a book in which proper attribution is given to songs' lyricists and composers, does not list himself as having had anything to do with the song.[8]

The music is generally believed to have been written by James R. Murray.[2] The first publication of the music was in 1874 in School Chimes, A New School Music Book by S. Brainard's Sons, and attributes the music to him.[9] The 1881 publication by McCaskey gives attribution to the S. Brainard's Sons publication, which would mean Murray.[8]

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.

Ray Conniff's version of the song, featured on his 1962 album "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", helped propel the album to platinum status, one of two platinum albums in Conniff's career.[10][11]


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 you 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. ^ a b Anderson, Douglas D. "Jolly Old St. Nicholas". Archived from the original on 11 May 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Jolly Old St. Nicholas". Band Music Library. Tuxedo Union Free School District. Retrieved January 27, 2016.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Fa-la-la-la facts". United States Postal Service. Archived from the original on 30 November 2019. Retrieved 30 November 2019. The lyrics were adapted from the 1865 poem “Lilly’s Secret” by author and poet Emily Huntington Miller.
  5. ^ a b c McCaskey, Patrick (2013-05-05). "J.P. McCaskey remembered on anniversary". LNP. Archived from the original on 2018-07-24. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  6. ^ Steadman, John (2000-05-24). "Bears' McCaskey a throwback to NFL founding owner Halas". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2017-07-30.
  7. ^ McCaskey, John Piersol (1881). Franklin Square Song Collection No. 1. New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company. p. 0. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  8. ^ a b McCaskey, John Piersol (1881). Franklin Square Song Collection No. 1. New York, Cincinnati, Chicago: American Book Company. p. 80. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  9. ^ School Chimes, A New School Music Book. Cleveland: S. Brainard's Sons. 1874. p. 43. Archived from the original on 6 April 2016. Retrieved 30 November 2019.
  10. ^ (No author.) "Musician Ray Conniff dead at 85," UPI NewsTrack, 14 October 2002.
  11. ^ "Christmas Album of the Week". South Pasadena Review.

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