Scotland on Sunday yesterday reported that:
A new version of the famous Christmas poem, A Visit From St Nicholas, has taken out all references to Father Christmas smoking a pipe in an attempt to prevent children from taking up the habit.
The poem, originally written by Clement Moore in 1823, has been credited with creating the modern-day image of Santa Claus.
But the edited version by a Canadian author – which will be promoted in Scotland next year – cuts out lines which refer to Santa Claus being shrouded in smoke with a pipe between his teeth. An illustrator has also produced a series of images to go with the edited poem, none of which show Father Christmas holding a pipe.
According to the author, Pamela McColl:
“I edited this poem as studies out of the United States in the 1990s showed that the depiction of cartoon characters smoking influences young children ages 3-7 towards tobacco products,” she said.
Really? I would love to know how many children have started to smoke as a consequence of reading (or being read) a poem about Santa written in 1823.
There are 14 verses and 54 lines in A Visit From St Nicholas and only two of them refer to Santa's nicotine habit. They can be found deep within the poem, in verse eleven:
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
Despite this and the fact that the lines no longer appear in the 'new' sanitised version, McColl says she intends to promote her book by visiting "smoking prevention agencies and public health associations” as well as libraries, distributors and booksellers when she visits Scotland in February.
Clearly, this is an exercise in smoking cessation and has nothing to do with poetry or Santa.
The newspaper report quotes several critics of the move, including me. Full story: Santa’s pipe dream up in smoke as tobacco ban on children’s classic derided
Anyway, this being Christmas Eve, I will leave you with the illustration that appeared on the 2010 Forest Christmas card. It was designed for us by Dan Donovan.
I hope you all have a very merry Christmas. I'll be back in a day or two, several pounds heavier no doubt.