Santa doesn’t smoke a pipe in PC rewrite of ‘Twas the Night’
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October 14, 2012 | 4:00am
It’s a holiday classic Mayor Bloomberg would love.
A sanitized version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” edits out all references to Santa Claus’ pipe habit — and critics say it’s yet another example of political correctness run amok.
A one-woman vice squad — self-published Canadian author Pamela McColl — kicked St. Nick’s butt habit in a new version of the beloved poem about “the night before Christmas.”
McColl deleted two verses — “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath”— and hired an illustrator to redraw Santa without his pipe and halo of tobacco haze.
“No one can backtrack now,” McColl crowed to The Post. “Santa has stopped smoking, and 2012 is the year he quit, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.”
But not everyone is celebrating Kris Kringle going cold turkey after 189 years.
“Leave my story alone! This change is not officially sanctioned by the North Pole,” said Nicholas Trolli, president of the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santas.
Critics wonder if the meddling willl stop at a smokeless Santa.
“Maybe they should talk about the fact that he’s also overweight and that he probably drinks,” griped Jackie Blackwell, “chief elf” and owner of a Canadian Christmas store.
Literary-minded critics accuse McColl of censoring history.
The poem — which is widely attributed to Clement Moore — was first published anonymously on Dec. 23, 1823, in the Sentinel newspaper in upstate Troy. It is considered one of the most famous poems in the English language and the first to present Santa as we know him now: “chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,” who slides down chimneys carrying presents — and smokes a pipe.
“It’s denying access to the original voice of the author, and that’s censorship,” said Deborah Caldwell-Stone, of the American Library Association, who likened McColl’s alteration to an Alabama publisher’s controversial purging last year of “indecent” language in “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”
Children would be better served to be taught to think critically instead of “hoping for a magic solution by taking away Santa’s pipe,” said Svetlana Mintcheva, director of programs at The National Coalition Against Censorship.
Trolli says the original text presents modern-day Santas with a valuable teaching moment.
“We use the opportunity to tell kids that Santa used to smoke but Miss Claus made him quit,” he said. “So we are telling our Santas to continue using the original version of the book.”
But McColl — who has spent $200,000 of her own money printing 55,500 copies in English, Spanish and French — believes her book will do more good than harm.
“I don’t care how you like your classics,” she said about her detractors. “I care about your children.”
Blackwell was angered enough to send this e-mail to McColl:
“The original and only version of this wonderful verse hangs in my shop and will remain there. I have no interest in your books,” Blackwell wrote. “So for the record, ‘You can put that in your pipe and smoke it.’ ”
What Xmas vices will the PC police tackle next?
* Santa’s new snack: Soy milk; gluten-free cookies.
* Instead of “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Santa says, “Happy holidays to all — or not, if you don’t celebrate one.”
* A moratorium on elf-made toys, because it’s basically child labor.
* “The Vertically Challenged Drummer Person”
It’s a holiday classic Mayor Bloomberg would love. A sanitized version of “A Visit from St. Nicholas” edits out all references to Santa Claus’ pipe…
Santa with pipe
‘Twas The Night Before Christmas is a story many children have seen as synonymous with the Christmas season for almost two centuries. Does that make it a tradition – or woefully out of date? It’s a debate that has been triggered by those concerned about Santa’s smoking in the story. Whether the pipe holds tobacco, marijuana, hashish or heroin, many believe it’s definitely not the right image to glorify to children.
In the poem, the original author refers to Santa Claus’s smoking habits with phrases such as “the stump of his pipe” and “the wreath of smoke around his head.” In an age where smoking of pipes or cigarettes have been banned in just about every conceivable public space in many states and children are taught from a young age that smoking kills, some individuals felt that it is time Santa was given a modern makeover – and lose the pipe. Traditionalists, however, are taking issue with the rewrite of the classic.
Once Upon a Time…
The controversy began last year when a Canadian publisher, Pamela McColl, who also happens to be a smoking cessation advocate, decided Santa needed some updating. She had new copies of the classic poem printed without any mention of Santa’s pipe or smoke. McColl said her goal was to ensure that young readers were not influenced by Santa’s bad habit. Taking it one step further, the publisher, Grafton and Scratch, and Indigo booksellers create a new cover that states: “Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century.”
Publisher Believes They Are Saving a Classic Christmas Poem
McColl says she is just reacting to public opinion, claiming parents have been skipping the smoking references or tearing out pictures of Santa and his pipe. According to McColl, parents report that their children break into tears when they see Santa smoking and ask if he’s going to die. McColl points out that Curious George was edited for the same reason, rendering “the man in the yellow hat” smoke-free.
To those who say that McColl is changing a historical figure she says, “Santa is not a historical figure to a five-year-old. He’s literally a real guy smoking in their living room.”
McColl feels that without her edits, it won’t be long before the poem will become an unused relic.
Critics Claim Modern Political Correctness Should Not Change Literary Works
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, deputy director of the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom, explains that the American Library Association along with a number of other advocacy groups is against “expurgation.” This is the act of removing excerpts of literature from the past that may not be culturally appropriate in the present. When this occurs, it is under the assumption everyone feels the same, which is almost never the case. However, she states, “The bottom line is that we’re denying access to the author’s original voice, denying the opportunity for the author’s voice to be heard.”
Do you think Santa should be allowed to smoke in Christmas stories and poems? Or do you believe that it unnecessarily inserts a negative role model into a child’s experience? We’d like to hear your opinion below.
In the poem, the original author refers to Santa Claus’s smoking habits with phrases such as “the stump of his pipe” and “the wreath of smoke around his head.”