De Night in de Front from Chreesmas is a picture book of thirty-nine pages that was written and illustrated by the American humorist Milt Gross. The verse story is a parody of the famous 19th century poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" (also known as "The Night Before Christmas"). The action takes place on Christmas Eve in a New York City apartment building, which is home to the Jewish Feitelbaum family and many other people. The night turns out to be an extremely bad one for all of the building's inhabitants.
The poem's narrator, Mr. Feitelbaum, is an immigrant from Eastern Europe whose first language is Yiddish. He speaks imperfect and heavily accented English. The poem is written phonetically to reflect Mr. Feitelbaum's pronunciation. The book's opening lines are,
- "Twas de night befurr Chreesmas
- und hall troo de houze
- Not a critchure was slipping - not
- ivvin de ssouze"
The text of De Night in de Front from Chreesmas was first published in the New York World newspaper on December 19, 1926. It was republished in book form in 1927.
In 1944, as part of an effort to boost morale during World War II, Mildred and Raymond Eisenhardt of Ridgewood, New Jersey sought Milt Gross's permission to reprint De Night in de Front from Chreesmas as a booklet. In the introduction to their edition, the Eisenhardts explained why they felt it was necessary to reprint the story eighteen years after its first publication thus, "A new generation has grown to fighting, if not voting age. To deny it this delicious piece of fun at a moment when laughter is almost the sole inoculation against lunacy is unthinkable."
Milt Gross's poem and illustrations were published again in 1950 as part of the book Hoawatta and De Night in de Front from Chreesmas and in 2009 as part of the book Is Diss a System?: A Milt Gross Comic Reader, edited by Ari Y. Kelman (ISBN 0814748236).
On Christmas Eve, stockings are hanging in front of the fireplace in the Feitelbaum family's apartment, along with other items of laundry that have been hung there to dry. Mr. Feitelbaum hears a loud buzzing at the doorbell and rushes to answer the door. He sees a very short man with a nose like a big pickle, an enormous belly and short bandy legs. Mr. Feitelbaum also believes that he can hear reindeer dancing on the roof, a sound which he fears will disturb his upstairs neighbors. Thinking the man to be Santa Claus, Mr. Feitelbaum excitedly calls out to the rest of his family to come and see him. The little man does not answer when Mr. Feitelbaum asks him about his reindeer but Mr. Feitelbaum invites him in anyway. The little man reveals that he is not really Santa Claus but the apartment building's elevator operator. He has come to ask for a tip, as is customary at Christmas. Mr. Feitelbaum throws the little man out of his apartment.
Later that evening, after Mr. Feitelbaum's sleep has been disturbed by an invasion of spiders and insects, someone playing Santa Claus gets stuck in a stovepipe. When Mr. Feitelbaum's son Looy turns on the heat, an explosion occurs. The apartment of the Feitelbaums' downstairs neighbor, Mr. McCoddy is badly damaged by the explosion. Unfortunately, Mr. McCoddy is holding a wedding party in his apartment at the time of the explosion. It is a terrible end to a terrible night. In concluding his story, Mr. Feitelbaum says that he would not wish such a night on his worst enemy.