I have just read a rather disturbing article at The Guardian about Pamela McColl’s recently published revision of Clement C. Moore‘s classic “A Visit from St. Nicholas”, or “Twas the Night Before Christmas” as it’s more commonly known. McColl, an anti-smoking campaigner has removed two offending lines from the poem as well as the images of St. Nicholas (gasp!) Smoking a Pipe.
I believe in promoting a healthy lifestyle. I also believe in promoting ethical human and environmental conscientiousness. I’m all for setting a good example for children, so I tried to rewrite the poem with modern issues in mind. Of course I changed Christmas to Winter Holiday so as not to offend any non-Christmas-celebrators and likewise St. Nicholas had to become an “Imaginary Gift-Giver (children don’t need such false-hope provocations, do they?) Obesity is such a problem that sugar-plums had to become ‘Healthy Snacks’. (I haven’t yet tackled the problem of Santa’s described physique.)
I worried about what climate-friendly alternative I could use for that wood-guzzling, heat-leaking, smoke-belching chimney and then I thought about how I could possibly deal with the narrator’s poor choice in opening up the window and exposing himself so carelessly to what might have been a criminal act on his lawn.
It was all just too much to handle, so I gave up. Perhaps it’s better to just make various versions of the poem. McColl’s with her smoke-less version might start the trend and then the anti-obesity people can deal with the health issues. Greenpeace might want to get in there and figure out how the chimney should really be configured.
Oh, hey! Brain-wave! There could be a “Choose Your Own Modern Issue” where you can flip pages to get the version that works for you and your kids.
Personally, I think I’ll stick with the original after all and if I need to discuss history, culture, values, science and health with students and my grandchildren, I can handle that.
Dear Ms. McColl: Go ahead and rewrite the poem, (your intentions are honourable), it’s in the public domain after all. But don’t try to pass it off as the original. The Original is Awesome.