De Night in de Front from Chreesmas is a thirty-nine page picture book which was written and illustrated by the Jewish-American humorist Milt Gross. The verse story parodies the famous 19th century poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas"). The action takes place on the evening of December 24 in a New York City apartment building where the Jewish Feitelbaum family, and several other people, live. The night ends up being a terrible one for all of the building's occupants.
Mr. Feitelbaum, the story's narrator, is an immigrant from Eastern Europe and a native speaker of Yiddish. His English is somewhat faulty and heavily accented. The poem is written phonetically in order to reflect Mr. Feitelbaum's pronunciation. Its opening lines are,
- "Twas de night befurr Chreesmas
- und hall troo de houze
- Not a critchure was slipping - not
- ivvin de souze".
Milt Gross's poem was first published on December 19, 1926 in the newspaper the New York World. It was republished as a book in 1927.
As part of an attempt to boost morale during World War II, Mildred and Raymond Eisenhardt of Ridgewood, New Jersey obtained Milt Gross's permission to reprint De Night in de Front from Chreesmas in 1944 as a booklet. In the booklet's introduction, the Eisenhardts explained why they believed it was necessary to bring out a new edition of the story eighteen years after its first publication, by saying, "A new generation has grown to fighting, if not voting age. To deny it this delicious piece of fum at a moment when laughter is almost the sole inoculation against lunacy is unthinkable."
In 1950, Milt Gross's poem and illustrations were published again as part of the book Hiawatta and De Night in de Front from Chreesmas. In 2009, De Night in de front from Chreesmas was reprinted as part of the anthology Is Diss a System?: A Milt Gross Comic Reader edited by Ari Y. Kelman (ISBN 0814748236).
It is Christmas Eve. In the Feitelbaum family's apartment, stockings are hanging in front of the fireplace, along with the rest of the laundry that has been hung up to dry there. When he hears a loud buzzing at the doorbell, Mr. Feitelbaum rushes to open the door. He finds an extremely short man whose nose looks like a big pickle, whose belly is huge and whose legs are short and bandy. Mr. Feitelbaum also fancies that he can hear the sound of reindeer dancing on the roof, a noise which he fears will bother his upstairs neighbors. Thinking that the little man is Santa Claus, Mr. Feitelbaum cries out in excitement, telling the rest of his family to come and see the man. Although the man remains silent when Mr. Feitelbaum asks him about his reindeer, Mr. Feitelbaum invites the little man into his apartment. The little man then explains that he is not really Santa Claus. He is the apartment building's elevator operator and, as is customary at Christmas, he has come to ask for a tip. Mr. Feitelbaum chases the little man away.
Later that same evening, after Mr. Feitelbaum has had his sleep disrupted by hordes of insects and spiders, a man playing Santa Claus gets stuck in a stovepipe. An explosion follows when Mr. Feitelbaum's son Looy turns on the heat. The explosion does serious damage to the apartment of the Feitelbaums' downstairs neighbor Mr. McCoddy, who, unfortunately, is holding a wedding party in his apartment when the explosion happens. It is an extremely bad end to an extremely bad night. Mr. Feitelbaum concludes his tale by saying that he would not wish such an evening on his worst enemy.