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 song has been attributed to John Piersol McCaskey, a school principal and former Mayor of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, who wrote 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]

The song is traditionally performed to a melody which James Lord Pierpont wrote in 1857 for the original version of "Jingle Bells".


The traditional lyrics are:

Jolly old St. 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.

This is the original published song in 1881:

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.

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 (newspaper). 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. 

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