By Z.S. Roe
Christmas is a big deal. It means family, presents, general good cheer, and time away from work. Oh, and then there’s the whole tradition thing. You know: Santa Claus, the Christmas tree, caroling, and the iconic Christmas story. No, not the Jesus Christmas story; the other one—Clement Clarke Moore’s 1822 poem, “Twas The Night Before Christmas.”
For nearly two centuries, western families have read Moore’s famous poem each and every Christmas Eve. And it’s not just a fun poem full of zany rhymes. On the contrary, much of what we imagine when it comes to Santa and his yearly shenanigans is thanks in large part to this poem. That sleigh and those reindeer? Yeah, those were Moore’s invention.
With that said, you’d think we’d treat this seasonal treasure with a little bit of respect, right? Not so, my friends. Apparently, Santa has a bit of a smoking habit (nicotine—it gets the best of us, right?), and it’s high time he put it behind him. For the kids and all.
And, wouldn’t you know it, publisher and anti-smoking advocate Pamela McColl has come to the fat man’s rescue. In a recent edition of Twas The Night Before Christmas, two lines have been excised: “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath.”
All things considered, this doesn’t seem so bad. Just two lines. And it’s not as if the original version will be forever stricken for the literary record. As McColl explains, “this [edition] is just an alternative.” (For more of the story, click here).
Still, the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The book cover quips that this edition has been edited by Santa “for the benefit of the children of the 21st century,” but this isn’t so much cute and forward thinking as it as an exercise in over protective activist blather.
Look, if you don’t like your kids being exposed to images of Santa lighting up, then simply don’t expose them to it. There are other smoke-free Santa stories out there. Can’t find any? Then make one up yourself (don’t worry, kids are easily amused). To rewrite a piece of literature because it no longer jibes with contemporary thinking is just silly. It would be akin to no longer loving your grandparents after realizing just how racist they are (and they are—there’s no question about it).
Yes, your child may stumble across the original poem at school or … I don’t know … while sniffing blow in some back alley. But if that should happen, then maybe consider turning off the TV and putting your iphone down and then having an actual, bona fide discussion with the kid.
And really, let’s be honest: smoking isn’t Santa’s only problem. The guy’s also pretty fat and just as likely to die from a heart attack as from lung cancer.
So, come on—give the guy a break. He’ll be dead soon, anyway.
Opinion is a bi-monthly column of just that, my opinion. While opinions are like noses and everyone has one, mine are especially snotty. Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated. If you like what you read here, please subscribe.