"Christmas Eve is coming soon/Now, you dear old man/Whisper what you'll bring to me/Tell me if you can."
'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' is about Santa Claus, the character who was inspired by a real man named Saint Nicholas who came to be known for the miracles that God performed through him. Often, those miracles involved showing compassion and generosity toward people in need. The stories of the historical miracles from Saint Nicholas' life led people to imagine Santa Claus, who can miraculously deliver gifts to all of the world's children on just one night: Christmas Eve.
'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' was featured in the hit 1980 movie Ordinary People.
The history of this simple, childlike Christmas carol isn't well-documented, but many historians believe that American composer, pastor, and school principal Benjamin Hanby wrote 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' because it was published in the mid-1800s around the same time as Hanby's Christmas song 'Up on the Housetop' and has similar musical qualities.
The music that forms the basic notes of 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas' is 'Canon in D Major' by Johann Pachelbel.
Sometimes people credit Wilf Carter, a singer who was known professionally as Montana Slim, with writing 'Jolly Old Saint Nicholas,' because he was the first to record the song. But the song was published before Carter recorded it; albeit anonymously.