Publisher smokes out Santa Claus

  • Article by: BILL WARD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 29, 2012 - 10:41 AM

A new edition of " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas" pilfers Santa's pipe and prompts a pushback.

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An illustration by Jessie Willcox Smith from the 1912 edition of Clement Moore's " 'Twas the Night Before Christmas."

Clement C. Moore brought Santa Claus to life with his 1823 poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas."

This year, Pamela McColl is trying to reinvent the big guy.

McColl has published a slightly abridged version of Moore's "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" (as it now is known), excising this: "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."

No, Virginia, there is no smoking in this edition of the Christmas classic.

Not surprisingly, controversy has ensued, with the American Library Association protesting and Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert labeling the act "political cor-Xmas."

Child advocate McColl says the people raising a fuss are missing the point.

"It has ignited the fire, but taken away from the goal, which is talking about tobacco," she said. "I want people to get mad at tobacco, not librarians fighting with me. All parents don't want their children to smoke, so we're all on the same page."

McColl said that 25 percent of long-term smokers start before age 10. "It is illegal to use a cartoon character to promote smoking in advertising, and here we have Santa Claus, the most influential character of all time, smoking in the middle of the living room."

Hers is just the latest altered version of the "pirated to death" work, McColl said. The Grafton publication does not bear her name and can best be found on Amazon by searching for "edited by Santa Claus." The two expunged lines are the only alteration.

"I'm not cleaning up the most famous poem in the English language," McColl said. "I'm just coming at it from a smoking angle."

Read the full poem by Clement C. Moore with illustrations from the 1912 book by Jessie Willcox Smith at Project Gutenberg.

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