Making Santa PC?

English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,

And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot…

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,

And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.

He had a broad face and a little round belly,

That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,

And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!”

from “A Visit from St. Nicholas”



I suppose it was only a matter of time.  In an age where fitness gurus saturate the airwaves and Scandinavian policymakers are calling for bans on butter in schools, it shouldn’t be too surprising that someone would take aim at that nefarious corrupter of public morals: Santa Claus.

The Associated Press recently reported that author Pamela McColl mortgaged her house and spent 200,000 of her own Canadian dollars to publish and promote a reworking of Clement Clarke Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (otherwise known as “Twas the Night Before Christmas”).  Only the new version bowdlerizes some lines McColl deems objectionable: “The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, / And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.”

The dust jacket of McColl’s book also includes a letter from Santa stating that “all of that old tired business of smoking” is behind him, and that out of respect for animals, his clothing is now made from faux fur.  The book has been praised by groups such as the American Academy of Pediatrics.  However, the American Library Association views McColl’s work as nothing less than censorship.

Apparently, McColl’s animosity towards tobacco began when she was eighteen years old and had to pull her father out of his burning bed after he’d fallen asleep with a lit cigarette.  Of course like many anti-vice crusaders, she was a smoker herself when she was young but later kicked the habit.  (As my grandpa used to say:  “There’s nothing worse than a reformed drunk.”)

Personally, I find McColl’s fixation on Santa’s pipe a bit amusing.  I remember the illustrated edition of Moore’ classic poem that my mother read to me as a child—complete with a painting of Mister Claus puffing on a big-bowled Meerschaum while enjoying a brief respite from his night’s busy labors.

Apart from Middle Earth and Kevin Costner’s portrayal of Devil Anse Hatfield, pipe smokers are pretty much a dying breed these days.  So the idea that Santa is somehow inspiring a new generation of toddlers to light up a briar is naive at best, and it is yet another example of political correctness gone awry.  So what’s next?  Non-fat, sugar-free sugar-plums?  Safety guardrails on rooftops and chimneys?  A flame-retardant suit for old Saint Nick?  Or how about a worldwide ban on wood-burning fireplaces?

If McColl had her way, she’d likely have Santa on a regimented exercise plan to trim away that unhealthy layer of flab around his mid-section.  But then again, she’s probably the sort of person who thinks that rewriting Huckleberry Finn for a modern audience is a good idea, too.

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Short story: Santa’s Gift

This was a scene I originally wrote for a sketch comedy group I belonged to ages ago. It was never performed, but I always liked it so dusted it off recently and converted it to a scene. It was mostly dialogue anyway.  I hope you enjoy it, and Happy Holidays!

Merry.......... christmas..?
Image by Nicolai Kjærgaard via Flickr

Inside the cozy living room of a well furnished suburban home, Harold, a tired and middle-aged man, sat in a plush chair next to the crackling fireplace with his wife, Kelly.

Bundled in a sweater, Kelly watched as snow drifted down past the window. She smiled happily and sipped from a big mug of hot chocolate. Harold, scowling morosely, took a long swig from a can of beer.

Kelly looked at her husband, glowing with contentment. “There is just something magical about Christmas Eve. Everything seems special. The air smells cleaner, the snow seems whiter, even the cold doesn’t seem so… cold. You know what I mean, Harold?”

Harold looked at Kelly and sighed. “Yeah, it’s like a storybook come to life.”

Kelly rolled her eyes. “Oh, here we go. I thought maybe you were going to skip your annual Christmas pout-fest, but I guess not.”

Harold shifted in his chair. “I just don’t like it, okay. A lot of people don’t like Christmas.”

Kelly set down her mug. “Yeah, but MOST people like Christmas. Even if you’re not Christian there’s still all the pretty lights, the decorations, the spirit of giving…”

“..the marketing, the commercialism, the fat man in the beard…”

“Santa?” asked Kelly.

“Yeah. Him.”

“You can’t not like Santa! Do you ever watch the children’s faces when they see him at the mall? It’s like magic.”

“Poor little bastards.”

Kelly threw up her hands. “Harold! Every Christmas since we met you’ve been like this and you never tell me why. It doesn’t make any sense!”

“Then just ignore me,” Harold replied, scowling. “I’ll be fine tomorrow.”

“I’m not going to ignore it this time! I want to know why this day bothers you so much.”

“You wouldn’t understand. Just trust me on this and let it go, okay?”

Kelly yawned a huge, face stretching yawn, wobbling slightly in her chair. “I wouldn’t understand? I think you would be surprised at what I… understand.” Kelly shook her head and tried to focus, but was fading fast. She tried to go on, “…but if you won’t talk to me, how can you expect me to… ohh… expect me to… Hmmm… to…”

Kelly fell back in her chair, fast asleep. Harold looked at her and grimaced.

“Oh crap, here we go. I’m gonna need a reload…” Harold reached behind his chair and came out with a fresh beer. He popped the tab and took a long drink.

From the flickering shadows in the fireplace, Santa Claus faded into view. He was the epitome of the Christmas legend, from the big sack of toys to the rosy cheeks to the jolly belly.

“Ho Ho Ho! Meeeeeerry Christmas, Harold!”, Santa bellowed.

Harold sighed. “You’re late this year, fatso.”

Santa beamed. “Sorry to keep you waiting, Harold. There’s been a lot more good boys and girls this year so I’m running a little behind”

“You could just skip our house, you know.”

“Now how could I possibly do that, my little friend?” asked Santa, reaching for Harold’s cheek to give it a pinch.

Harold knocked Santa’s hand aside as he rose from the chair. “I can always hope,” he said.

“You’re such a kidder, Harold” said Santa. “Now, let’s see what you’ve been up to this past year.” Santa pulled a phone from his jacket and punched a few buttons. “Hmmm… you’re doing pretty good this year. Definitely in the Nice column! Ho Ho Ho!”

“Lucky me.”

Santa tsked. “Although you’ve still got that surly attitude of yours. We started using a computer Child Ranking Database that automatically calculates the Naughty and Nice score for every child. Oh my, it saves us a load of time.”

“Great, even Santa is into computer surveillance these days.”

“Ho Ho! Anyway, it looks like you helped three old ladies load groceries into their car, volunteered 142 hours at an animal shelter, and turned down repeated sexual advances from Julie in Marketing.”

“I think I’m the only one who turned her down,” Harold replied, giving a small shudder.

Santa punched a button and grinned. “Oh, you aren’t far wrong on that one! Ho Ho Ho! Julie’s definitely on our Naughty list.”

“That’s just more information than I needed. Are you done now, Santa? Can I have my life back for another year?”

“You know, Harold, I just don’t understand why you are always so antagonistic. Most people would love a yearly visit from Santa Claus.”

Harold lunged towards Santa, one fist clenched, crushing his beer can in the other. “Most people don’t think you really exist! MOST people haven’t had you visiting them every year since they were seven!”

Santa smiled jovially. “That’s because you were a special boy! I still recall the first time I saw you at the mall. You wanted so badly to sit on my lap, but your mom wouldn’t hear of it. You just kept staring at me with those big, brown eyes of yours while she led you away. I said to myself, Santa, you should make a special stop for that young man.”

Harold wiped some spilled beer from his shirt. “Special? That wasn’t the word my parents used when I tried to tell them. ‘Hey mom, guess who was in our house last night? Santa Claus, complete with magic powers, big beard, smelly reindeer, the whole works!’”

“Hmmm, well, I told you to keep it a secret,” admonished Santa.

“At first it wasn’t too bad, just a pat on the head and a pitying look. Each year I thought I dreamed it, but then you showed up again the next year and I was convinced all over again. But as I got older I didn’t get pats on the head anymore. You know what I got? I got therapists! I got medication! I got fucking Santa Claus intervention!”

“Ho Ho Ho! I remember the year I had to visit you in that youth psychiatric hospital. You were a tough boy to find, young man!” Santa waggled a finger a Harold.

“There’s no hiding from Santa Claus, is there? I tried, I sure tried…”

“A different place every year there for a while, as I recall. Isn’t that when you started trying to film me?”

”Hell yeah, I wanted proof. But nooooo, Santa doesn’t show up on film.”

“And wasn’t your chimney covered in garlic one year?”

Harold looked a little sheepish. “Well, after you didn’t show up on the video tape I had a theory that maybe you were related to vampires.”

“Ho Ho Ho! That’s a good one! Still, I liked the garlic better than the years you tried to pass out drunk before I arrived. You were such a mess, I’m glad you gave that up! Do you have anyidea how hard it is to clean vomit out of this suit? Mrs. Claus was getting quite mad at you, you little rascal!” Santa winked.

“Well, how was I to know you could instantly sober me up. They never talked about THAT ability in any of the songs.”

“I mainly use that trick on the elves. Cute little guys, but can’t hold their liquor. Sometime remind me and I’ll tell you the story of the Christmas Eve Party of ’68. Ho Ho Ho!”

“Lovely. Then of course I also found out you’re bulletproof.”

“Oh my, I almost forgot about that! No, you can’t kill Santa with a semi-automatic, Harold.”

“Or a double-barreled shotgun.”

“Or a grenade. Boy, was your house a mess. I’m glad you gave that up when you met Kelly.”

“Dammit, Santa! Can’t you at least show yourself to her? If I tried to tell her about this without proof I’ll end up divorced.” Harold spread his hands pleadingly.

“Ho Ho Ho! No can do!”

“Then how about at least leaving a gift? 25 years being stalked by Santa Claus and I’ve never actually received one lousy present! Come on!”

“Now Harold, Santa exists because little children all over the world believe in him. If I left proof that I was here all that would be over.”

“Then can I at least get a ride in your sleigh for once?”

“Nope, sorry, that’s for official Christmas business only.”

“You know what, Santa?”

“What’s that, Harold?”

“Santa Claus is an asshole.”

Santa’s belly rocked as he laughed. “Ho Ho Ho! A man has to have his hobbies, even a magic one like Santa. Now give Santa one of those beers, and I’ll be on my way.” Santa reached behind the chair and took a beer.

“Don’t let the chimney hit you on the ass on the way out.”

Santa pinched Harold on the cheek, who this time didn’t resist. “You’re such a kidder, little Harold! Now be a good little boy, because Santa Claus will be watching! Bye bye, now!”

Harold watched morosely as Santa turned towards the fireplace and faded from view. As soon as he vanished, Kelly began to stir in her chair.

“… if you won’t talk to me… Hmmm… expect me to understand why you hate this day of the year so much.” Kelly looked around sleepily.

“I’m sorry, Harold,” Kelly said, getting up and stretching. “Look, I didn’t mean to fight about this.”

Harold sighed and set down his beer. “It’s okay. I’m sorry I made you upset.”

“Don’t you worry about it! Everyone in the world is entitled to their little quirks, even my Harold Goldstein.” She gave Harold a quick hug.

Harold wiped away some tears with the back of his hand. “You’re right,” he said. “Let’s go light the Menorah.”

~ end ~

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