In 1823, Clement Clarke Moore wrote the epic holiday poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, better known as Twas the Night Before Christmas. For nearly 200 years, this holiday favorite, describing Santa's clandestine visit to the narrator's home, has been a central part of many families' traditions. Many a father or grandfather has gathered the kids around for a spirited recitation of the multi-stanza rhyme.
For coming holiday season, Canadian publisher Pamela McColl has decided to issue a new, slightly altered version of the beloved classic - minus two lines that refer to Santa Claus' use of tobacco. The lines "The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth/And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath" have been excised by Ms. McColl, an outspoken anti-smoking advocate. Fearing that children may be influenced and take a cue from Santa's smoking habits, Ms. McColl said, "I just really don’t think Santa should be smoking in the 21st century."
Now, I don't smoke and I don't like being around smoke. But, come on!, isn't this taking political correctness a bit too far? Someone has decided, in 2012 — after 189 years since its first publication — that Santa Claus, a fictional character in a poem, should not smoke because it presents a negative influence on an impressionable child. Yet, in ten or so years, this person will have to deal with explaining to the same child that they've been lying to that child about the existence of Santa.