Smoke-free Santa

8 posts / 0 new
Last post
Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100
Smoke-free Santa

Santa has kicked the habit in time for Christmas. No, not the sugar plum habit, or his fur-wearing habit, or his penchant for romping recklessly around open flame.

No, gentlepeople, this is the year the man in red gave up pipe tobacco, at least in a new book version of "Twas the Night Before Christmas" that has received attention from some lofty corners, including the American Library Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The self-published Pamela McColl of Vancouver, Canada, has a mission for her story, to protect children and their parents from the ravages of smoking. She mortgaged her house and sunk $200,000 into her telling of the 189-year-old holiday poem, touring the states to promote it ahead of its September release.

What, particularly, did McColl do? She excised these lines: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth. And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath." And she added to the cover: "Edited by Santa Claus for the benefit of children of the 21st century."
Deborah Caldwell-Stone, the ALA's deputy director for intellectual freedom, doesn't have a hard heart. But she doesn't see tobacco addiction when she considers what McColl has done. She sees "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Tom Sawyer."
A publisher put out a combined version of those classics last year as edited by Mark Twain scholar Alan Gribben, who replaced about 200 occurrences of the N-word with "slave." Of McColl, Caldwell-Stone said:

"This wasn't a retelling. This wasn't a parody. This wasn't an adaptation. This wasn't a modernization. This wasn't fanfic. This was presenting the original but censoring the content. That kind of expurgation that seeks to prevent others from knowing the original work because of a disapproval of the ideas, the content, is a kind of censorship that we've always disapproved of."
McColl said she's trying to offer one option among dozens of versions of the rhyme that helped launch Santa Claus as an icon. She wants to shake up complacency over tobacco addiction and believes the pipe and rings of smoke around his head do resonate with little kids who don't have the same Santa filters as the rest of us, especially those who have parents or other loved ones who smoke.

"To them, Santa's not some historical guy," McColl said from Portland, Ore., where she recently finished nearly a full year on the road. "He's a real character. He's a real person coming down the chimney, and he's smoking. That's what a 3-year-old thinks like."

Read the full article at: There arose such a clatter over pipe-free Santa

What do you think? Is this an acceptable attempt to negate Santa's bad habits, or censorship?

Personally, I think things like this are great "teaching moments," so I wouldn't consider buying this book. We read the original and we talk about how smoking isn't good for anyone, and why we don't kill animals for their fur, but that this poem was written long ago when those things weren't considered bad. And we don't present Santa as a real person who comes down a chimney, so it's all a good story anyway.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I completely agree with you and with the person in the article who stated it was censorship. Modifying literary works is ridiculous.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

Literary works are representative of their time. Most older men these days are not smoking pipes whereas there was a time that it was common place. That is a fine conversation to have with a child. They will understand. Somehow I don't see a small child saying "Santa smokes! Someone get me a pipe." There is no need to censor a story because part of it doesn't fit with today's morals. That is ridiculous.

Joined: 05/31/06
Posts: 4780

Thats just silly. Did she put him on a low calorie diet too and introduce the new six pack ab santa? I'm not anti pipe, anti fur (would you begrudge an eskimo the right to wear fur? The man lives in the North Pole! Its cold!), or anti fat, in moderation, of course Smile Let Santa have a little fun, for goodness sake. It's probably why he's so generous and jolly. And lord knows he's outlived that prudish censor. His tobacco habit can't be all that bad.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

She better re-write Frosty the Snowman too, what with his corn cob pipe and all. Oh, and have the movie edited as well. This is censorship. Plus, I'm certain that pipe tobacco didn't contain the 5000 chemicals that are in cigarettes today. I used to love the smell of a pipe, from a distance - that vanilla aroma. Still, didn't make me run out and start smoking a pipe.

smsturner's picture
Joined: 05/11/09
Posts: 1303

I had no idea that santa was supposed to have had a pipe! She probably called more attention to it than she took away. Most kids probably don't know and never would have if she'd left it alone. (not to mention who is the last person you saw pick up a pipe and said they were inspired by santa to smoke?? crazy!! lol)

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

Yeah, not a fan of "editing" literature to censor out things that you find objectionable. My advice to this lady would be to either a) not read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to her kids if she finds it that objectionable, b) to read it but go ahead and skip over that part if she wants because there are no laws saying that she has to read every paragraph of every book she reads to herself or her kids, or best yet c) talk to her kids about why smoking is bad if they latch on to that part. How hard is that?

Spacers's picture
Joined: 12/29/03
Posts: 4100

I use Alissa's option B all the time! Just last night, I was reading one of the Madeline books to Weston. When Miss Clavel puts the twelve little girls to bed and says, "Thank the Lord you are well," I say, "I'm so glad you are well," instead. And almost anywhere I see the words mommy or daddy, I say, Mama and Papa, because those are the terms we use. It's easy, especially with little kids who can't read.