NEW YORK – Santa has given up pipe tobacco, at least in a new book version of ’Twas the Night Before Christmas, self-published by a Canadian woman on a mission to protect children and their parents from the ravages of smoking.
Pamela McColl of Vancouver 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.
Nevertheless, the American Library Association sees the move as censorship, saying in a statement that it involves 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.
A Troy, N.Y., newspaper published the poem anonymously in 1823 as A Visit from St. Nicholas. Clement C. Moore, a churchgoing academic 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.