The Night Before Christmas
by Nikolai Gogol (Noch, pere Rozhdestvom, 1832)
translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett (1926)
New Directions (2011)
80 pp

I should have posted this yesterday, but at the stroke of midnight December 23 – 24 I got incredibly sick.  I agree: being sick on Christmas Eve is no fun.  But I must say it was better to be sick on Christmas Eve than to go through what Gogol puts his characters through in The Night Before Christmas.

It begins peacefully:

The last day before Christmas had passed. A clear winter night had come; the stars peeped out; the moon rose majestically in the sky to light good people and all the world so that all might enjoy singing kolyadki and praising the Lord.

That peace doesn’t last long. Within a couple of sentences a witch has taken off and is stealing all of the stars from the skies. To make matters worse, the devil steals the moon. Such is anadolu yakasi escort bayan the setup to a type of romantic comedy. The town blacksmith, Vakula, is in love with Oksana, who, “like a beauty, was full of caprices.” Oksana’s father, Tchub, doesn’t like Vakula — not at all. But he does like Vakula’s mother, Soloha (who happens to be the witch). Unfortunately for Tchub, the devil also desires Soloha.

No one has an easy time with these relationships. Soloha actually does desire Tchub (not the devil), but everyone is after her. Furthermore, if Vakula manages to wed the shallow Oksana, that will make it impossible for Soloha to wed Tchub (custom prohibits the parents of the young couple from wedding themselves). Not that it’s likely Vakula will be able to win Oksana’s heart. For one thing, she does not love him. For another, to make it impossible, Oksana has said that the only way she’ll marry Vakula is if he brings to her “the very slippers the Tsarita wears.”

Surely we can see where this is all going. Now that Vakula’s interests are aligned with the devil’s, they manage a way forward.

The Night Before Christmas is a lot of fun. No, it’s not much more, but it is certainly worth the short time it takes to read it, even if holiday cheer doesn’t necessarily ring through it.

Merry Christmas to all!

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