The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

Christmas StoriesDoes the title of this short Christmas story inspire visions of Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick, sugar plums, presents and little children?  Or perhaps you imagine the comfort of a good night’s sleep and the joy of Christmas morning?  Well, wipe those thoughts right out of your mind.  Gogol’s The Night Before Christmas is as far from the favourite poem of my childhood as I could imagine.  He tells of adultery, the devil, thievery and unrequited love in a way that’s rather odd but extremely amusing.  It’s certainly a different perspective on a very important evening.

Winter Scene in Little Russia

Winter Scene in Little Russia (1868) Ivan Aivazovsky
~ source Wikiart

The Night Before Christmas

The story is so bizarre that I won’t describe the storyline in full, but suffice it to say, Gogol populates his tale with characters who display the same Russian extremes of emotion and action that we often experience in Russian novels.  The Devil appears on a snowy Christmas Eve in the village of Dikanka in the Ukraine, determined to make trouble and begins by stealing the moon from the winter night sky.  The tale carries on describing the town witch who is visited by certain men of the town for her favours (including the church deacon), a man who is in love with the beauty of the town who treats him with derision and scorn, sacks full of men (and the devil), and a flight to Saint Petersburg on the devil’s back. Add to that threats of suicide, the Tsaritsa’s (Catherine the Great) golden boots and a passel of Cossacks and you have yourself quite a tale.  At first I didn’t know quite what to think of it, but as I settled in, the antics of the characters were so entertaining that the story quickly became one of my favourites.

St. Michael Vanquishing the Devil

St. Michael Vanquishing the Devil (c. 1530) Bonifazio Veronese
~ source Wikimedia Commons

The characters in the tale often use the devil’s name in their speaking, such as, “Go to the devil,” “The devil, he did!,” or “What in the devil are you about?”  I wouldn’t do that.  In this tale, the devil was always active and his name seemed to invite his mischievous antics.  However, he did appear to get his just desserts in the end:

“And so, instead of deceiving, seducing and duping others, the enemy of the human race was duped himself.”

I would highly recommend this rather long short story for a great Christmastime read.  Bravo, Gogol!


⇐ The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton            The Blue Carbuncle ⇒

8 thoughts on “The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol

    • I’d never heard of it before either but it was certainly a romp! If you like Russian literature, you’d love it! Thanks for the complement and I hope you had a wonderful Christmas!! 🎄

  1. This is a new one to me (not saying much as I’ve yet to read any Russians), but it sounds very entertaining! I may have to look for this collection to read in a future Christmas season.

    • This one was tons of fun! And the book is a wonderful compilation of Christams stories …. it’s definitely worth owning!

    • Hey Nancy! Thanks for stopping by! I’m certainly enjoying my diversity although I haven’t been able to read as many books as I’d like to. Hope you’re doing well, have recovered and are having a merry Christmas season!

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