Last Updated:December 20 @ 08:27 am

Politically correct Santa gives up the pipe

By Leanne Italie

NEW YORK (AP) - 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."

And she included a letter from Santa on the back jacket flap announcing that "all of that old tired business of smoking" is behind him, claiming (by the way) that the reindeer can confirm his fur outerwear is faux out of respect for animals, including the polar bears of his beloved North Pole.

"There is a huge debate raging," McColl said of the attention. "I have been called every name in the book. One person said the only wreath they want to see this Christmas is one on my grave. Shame, shame, shame on you is the most common."

The 54-year-old entrepreneur and mother of adult twins said she's on Santa's case about smoking because she has seen firsthand how harmful it can be, recalling how at age 18 she had to pull her own father out of his burning bed after he fell asleep with a lit cigarette. She smoked herself as a teen but quit and is thankful her kids never took up the habit.

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."

Caldwell-Stone said as much in a statement the ALA publicly released. She said the two cases involve the "altering of a classic work of literature with a view toward protecting modern sensibilities, or preventing children from being aware of the character of the original work."

Stephen Colbert had some thoughts on the matter in November, only he was louder and funnier.

"Santa can't quit smoking," he bellowed on his Comedy Central show, holding back a laugh. "He needs that vice. You try dealing with the stress of delivering the world's toys in a single night. We're lucky he's not doing a pa rum pum pum pum of coke off of Blitzen's ass."

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."

McColl said she ran into supporters during her travels, including children who fret about Santa's health. Smoking, she said, is something Clement C. Moore, a churchgoing academic, also wasn't fond of. He once called tobacco "opium's treacherous, villainous friend."

A Troy, N.Y., newspaper published the poem anonymously in 1823 as "A Visit from St. Nicholas." Moore, who lived in Manhattan with his wife and six children, claimed the work in 1844, though some historians think Henry Livingston Jr. was the true creator.

Moore presented the New York Historical Society, of which he was a member, with a handwritten manuscript of the poem and it resides there today, along with a boxful of about 20 book versions of the work that now includes no-smoking Santa, donated by McColl.

"I think it reflects the times, so we were amused by it," said Mariam Touba, the society's reference librarian.

Among the courtesy stops for McColl during her walkabout promoting the book was a visit in October to the American Academy of Pediatrics in Chicago. The group of about 60,000 doctors said the book "was not reviewed or considered by our leadership in any official way," but McColl insists that "Public health loves this book."

A much easier endorsement stop was the advocacy group Americans for Nonsmokers' Rights, based in Berkeley, Calif.

"The intent of this heartwarming story about Santa Claus and Christmas remains intact despite the omission of the smoke," said the group's executive director, Cynthia Hallett. "My guess is many children will not notice the absence of the smoke."

McColl estimated she has sold more than 15,000 hard copies of the book in English, French and Spanish. She has given away thousands in e-books and to hospitals and charities in paper.

What's next, Colbert asked? Kale chips and coconut water instead of cookies and milk? "This political correXmas," he said, "must be stopped."

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10 Comments

  1. inluminatuoComment by inluminatuo
    December 12, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    Next the burning Bush will be edited from the Politically correct Bible. Is there nothing sacred to these politically correct fools who would destroy any record of human existence that does not match their ability to re-write the human experience to their satisfaction and manipulation of human outcome?

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      December 12, 2012 @ 10:50 am

      More 1984 censorship garbage from those who have nothing better to do. There are plenty more things to be upset about that are going on in this Country, but this idiot finds a poem not to her liking. A poem about Saint Nick! Heavens!

      I hope that McColl & Hallett gets many pounds of lumps of coal.

      Think I will smoke my Meerschaum Bowl Pipe today, and send a note to Santa along with an ounce or two of quality pipe tobacco.

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  2. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    December 12, 2012 @ 12:02 pm

    Of course when I first heard the story at the age of three or four, I put a pipe, some tobacco and matches in my letter, telling Santa what I wanted for Christmas. What disappointment I experienced, when Santa did not deliver.

    As I got older, I began to fret about the airworthiness of Santa’s sled, whether or not Santa was certified as a pilot, whether or not his reindeer had regular physicals. I was worried about the safety of Santa and those on the ground when he flew over. Despite numerous letters to the FAA and the NTSB, I’ve yet to receive a reply. And I don’t even want to get into whether or not OSHA has inspected Santa’s toy shop!

    Santa certainly needs to start complying with present day rules and regulations, for his own good, the good of his elves, and ours. One simply can’t be too careful ya know!

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    • lwessonComment by lwesson
      December 12, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

      Thanks Billzilla for the spirited inspiration. I think I will write a letter to PETA and any animal safety group about flying those unique reindeer in Winter conditions. Just how well are they taken care of if Santa does this?!

      Can you imagine the awful carnage of a midair collision?

      And I might sue someone as I started my pipe smoking at the tender age of 2 having sat on the Jolly Old Elf’s lap as he smoked his pipe and listened to what I wanted. ( “A Pipe like yours Santa and plenty of tobacco, please!” )—seldom if ever smoke a pipe by the way, or anything for that matter. sheesh!

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  3. pebearComment by pebear
    December 12, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

    The politically correct Santa would have a bong and not a pipe. He would be getting his buzz on!

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  4. highsiderComment by highsider
    December 12, 2012 @ 1:49 pm

    Don’t worry. The left has been doing it’s best to get Mr. Redcoat into drugs. In Washington state now, along with a few others he can use it to blow some weed (or maybe crack).

    If he gets lost or just nods off and doesn’t make it to your house, blame the progressives.

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  5. dbamichaelComment by dbamichael
    December 12, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    Man, these idiot parents of today, my peers, are whacked. They somehow think they are so much better, so superior than any other previous generation, that they know best, that it is their duty to destroy, alter, edit, re-create the history and customs of this culture so “todays” kids will be even better than their self-delusional parents. These poor kids are so doomed, ill-equipped to handle even minor stresses of life. Good thing those same enlightened parents will be willing to let the kids live at home til they are 40.

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  6. NY GrahamComment by NY Graham
    December 12, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

    “Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”

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    • CarmineComment by Carmine
      December 13, 2012 @ 1:40 am

      No, that’s “Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

      Oops, sorry! You were being sarcastic. Sometimes I’m a little slow on the uptake. But I’ll say it anyway whether anybody likes it or not, “MERRY CHRISTMAS”.

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  7. wedeyComment by wedey
    December 13, 2012 @ 9:38 am

    This is the kind of stuff that aggravates me. I heard about this story on Fox and Friends this morning. Gretchen said she was no young chick but she never equated Frosty or Santa as smoking. I am 71 and I never did either. They are trying to make something out of nothing. Something like this does not make children want to smoke. It seems like the hip thing to do when you are a teenager. Peer pressure has more to do with it than anything. In fact, it seems that in households where both parents smoke, it is more likely that the kids don’t. Go figure.

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