Did Santa Ever Smoke A Pipe?


Santa Claus, the jolly old man who brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve, is one of the most iconic figures of the holiday season. But did you know that he also used to smoke a pipe?
The image of Santa Claus as we know it today is largely influenced by the poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas", also known as "The Night Before Christmas", perhaps written by Clement C. Moore in 1823. The poem describes Santa as "a right jolly old elf" who arrives on a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer, and enters the house through the chimney to fill the stockings with toys. The poem also mentions that Santa has "a little round belly, that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly", and that he holds "a stump of a pipe" in his teeth, and the smoke encircles his head like a wreath.

The poem was widely popularized and inspired many illustrations of Santa Claus, such as the ones by Thomas Nast, a political cartoonist who also gave Santa his red and white suit, his workshop at the North Pole, and his naughty and nice list. Nast's drawings of Santa often featured him smoking a pipe, as did other artists such as Norman Rockwell, who painted Santa reading his mail, also with a pipe in his mouth.

However, not everyone was happy with the idea of Santa smoking a pipe, especially in the modern era, when the health risks of tobacco became more evident. Some critics argued that Santa's pipe habit was a bad influence on children, and that it contradicted his role as a benevolent and wholesome figure. They also pointed out that smoking a pipe could damage Santa's lungs and reduce his stamina, making it harder for him to deliver all the presents in one night.

In 2012, a Canadian author named Pamela McColl published a revised version of "A Visit from St. Nicholas", in which she removed all references to Santa's pipe, both in the text and the illustrations. She claimed that she did it for the children's sake, and that Santa had quit smoking in 2012. She also said that there was nothing anyone could do about it, and that her version was the only one that should be read to children.

Her decision sparked a lot of backlash from the public, who accused her of censorship, political correctness, and disrespect for the original author's work. Many people defended Santa's pipe as a part of his tradition and personality, and argued that children were smart enough to distinguish between fiction and reality, and that they would not start smoking just because they saw Santa with a pipe. They also pointed out that there were many other versions of Santa Claus around the world, some of which had different habits and characteristics, and that there was no need to impose one standard on everyone.

So, did Santa ever smoke a pipe, and does he still do it? The answer is not so simple, as it depends on how you view Santa Claus. If you see him as a historical and cultural figure, then yes, he did smoke a pipe, and he may or may not have quit, depending on your preference. If you see him as a mythical and magical being, then he can do whatever he wants, and his pipe may have special properties that make it harmless or beneficial. If you see him as a personal and subjective symbol, then he can be whatever you want him to be, and his pipe may be a sign of his wisdom, his humor, or his individuality.

Ultimately, Santa's pipe is not the most important thing about him. What matters more is his spirit of generosity, kindness, and joy, which he shares with everyone, regardless of their beliefs, backgrounds, or behaviors. As long as we keep that spirit alive, Santa will always be with us, pipe or no pipe.

Image source: Google Images Source: Conversation with Bing, 12/9/2023

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