The modern version of Santa Claus derives a lot of its imagery from Clement C. Moore’s 1822 poem, “The Visit From St. Nicholas” (known today as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”), and one of the enduring images of Santa is “a right jolly old elf” who smokes: “a stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/ And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”
St. Nick’s association with tobacco goes back a long way, and is even more closely linked to cigarettes than pipes; good ol’ Santa has long been an advertising icon for coffin nails in the USA.
Well, that was then; this is now.
The push is on – well, sort of – to make Santa Claus kick the habit in 2012. Or, more accurately, one determined woman with a lot of disposable income and an axe to grind is making the push. Former smoker Pamela McColl spent $200,000 to self-publish a version of Moore’s poem that deletes the smoking verse, and hired an artist to draw St. Nick without a pipe. She printed over 55,000 copies in English, Spanish and French, according to The New York Post.
McColl was inspired by looking through books about Santa and noticing that he was often depicted with the pipe. “I thought, ‘Oh, my, this is a great project,’” she told the L.A. Times. “I don’t care how you like your classics,” McColl is quoted as telling her detractors. “I care about your children.”
But does anyone care about one Canadian’s crusade to make Santa stop lighting up? I certainly hope not. I grew up with Santa smoking, and I never once, in my entire life, thought to myself: “Y’know, when I was little I saw Santa Claus smoking, so I should do it, too.” I’m not that stupid, and I hope the children of America aren’t, either.