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English Translation of
'Twas the Night Before Ojibwe Christmas


Tara Prindle

Ojibwe words in original version are italicized here in English

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not an wild creature was stirring, not even a mouse;

The moccasins were hung by the smoke hole with care,

In hopes that Giveaway-red-really-big-man soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of maple sugar danced in their heads;

And mother in her handkerchief, and I in my black hair,

Had just settled down for a long winter nap,


When outside the house there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.

Away to the window I flew like lightning,

Tore open the shutters and threw up the window shade. The moon on the breast of the crust on the snow

Gave a shine like duct tape to objects dense under brush,

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,


But a miniature toboggan, and eight tiny deer,

With a little old driver, so lively and fast,

I knew in a moment it must be Giveaway-red-really-big-man.

More rapid than bald eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted out, and called in a certain way by name;

"Now, Run-along! now, Dancer! now, Dance-along and Unmarried-woman!

On, Star! on Love! on, Thunderer and Lightening!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the house!

Now Fly along! Fly to a certain place! Fly upwards!"


As dry leaves that before the winter canibal monster fly,

When they meet with BIA, mount to the sky,

So up to the roofing the coursers they flew,

With the tobaggon full of toys, and Giveaway-red-really-big-man.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roofing

The prancing and pawing of each little foot.

As I drew in my hand, and was turning around,

Down the chimney Giveaway-red-really-big-man came with a bound.


He was dressed all in furs, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;

A bundle of toys he mangiwane on his back,

And he looked like a trader just opening his pack.

His eyes -- how they twinkled! his cheeks how merry!

His red cheeks were like roses, his nose like a choke-cherry!

His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,

And the beard of his chin was as white as a long knife man;


The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a roach headress;

He was full up on frybread with little round belly,

That shook, when he laughed like a birchbark dish of jelly.

He was chubby and fat, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed secretly when I saw him, in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his big head,

Soon gave me to know I had nothing to fear;


He spoke ojibwe not a word, but went straight to his work,

And filled all the moccasins; then turned with a jerk,

And laying his finger aside of his nose,

And nodded his head, up the smoke hole he rose;

He sprang to his toboggan, to his deer gave a whistle,

And away they all ran from the place in flight like the down of a thistle.

But I heard him shout out, ere he drove out of sight,


"Happy Christmas to all,

And to all later."

Version in Ojibwemowin
'Twas the Night Before Ojibwe Christmas

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Image credit: Photo close up of Ojibwe woman's leggings.
(from "Beads: Their Use By Upper Great Lakes Indians" exhibition produced by the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the Cranbrook Academy of Art (1977/1981).

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