Since it is still the holiday season, I must issue a warning to anyone who has or is near children: do not let them look at Santa Claus. At least, don’t let them look at Santa unless he is the new and improved edition. This warning comes not from me, but from those who are protesting against Santa Claus’s lack of responsibility. You see, he is not a role model for children, which makes him a threat. Santa is overweight, flies above the speed limit (nowhere is there a sign that permits for a speed of three thousand times the speed of sound), breaks into children’s homes without asking, wears fur, and lets his elves slave over the presents while he takes all of the credit for the deliveries. What is the worst offense, according to those who protest, is that he smokes.
In order to rectify this, a new edition of the book “Twas The Night Before Christmas” has removed all evidence of Santa’s nicotine habit/addiction. Previously, there was a line that mentioned how “The stump of a pipe he held in his teeth/and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.” (Keep in mind that this was a poem first published in 1823 by a writer believed to be Clement Moore, though it was originally published anonymously. Because the poem is 190 years old, copyright has expired and new editions like this one can be made).
Based on the current thinking of some, we should be very afraid for the implications of this smoking Santa. Santa, in order to remain in the holiday festivities, must be a role model. My question to this perspective, though, is for whom is Santa supposed to be a role model?
Now let’s think about this some more. Santa is not a rap star. His biggest audience is children under the ages of 10 and parents with children under the age of 10. Though known by name, he is not going to offer the same excitement to a single thirty-year-old as he is to a small child who has heard of and fully believes in the power of Santa. Yes, he is found in the occasional Christmas poster or TV advertisement, but almost always he is riding his sleigh and belting out his signature “ho ho ho” phrase. He does not have time to be smoking. When he visits with the children/customers at the malls, he lets them sit on his lap, but there is no smoke in sight (or there shouldn’t be unless there is some type of fire). Santa is the jolly man who delivers the presents. The red clothing and overweight stature are far more of his trademark than a pipe.
Also unlike a rock star, Santa does not have endless amount of publicity time. The main time when he is advertised is from Thanksgiving to Christmas, meaning the equivalent of a month (or 1/12 of the year). Though it may seem like it to some, Santa does not occupy all of that time. Looking particularly at North America, the amount of sale offers are equal to, if not double, the amount of time Santa gets.
Still, even considering this, people are still afraid that he is going to encourage children to smoke. Yet the problem with the argument of Santa’s role model ability is that he never was one. How many children grow up wishing that they were Santa Claus? How many pursue that dream? Peer pressure can be a huge reason why some people start to smoke (along with an indefinable image of the self, which can go hand in hand with peer pressure), yet neither I nor anyone I have seen/heard of has ever been pressured to act like Santa. Once again, Santa does not have a lot of cool factor with those who are tweens or older. Peer pressure comes from things that are conceived as cool. The removal of Santa’s cool factor automatically disqualifies him from peer pressure concerns.
And if Santa was negatively influencing children, wouldn’t there be plenty of stories to back this up? Santa’s been smoking for 190 years in the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas”, so where are all the children who have been hooked to cigarettes and pipes thanks to the jolly red man?
But let’s say that there are many children who are secretly doing this. Where do they get the money? If you are ten, you are most likely not working and not in a position to afford tobacco. So who is giving it to you? Your parents? And how long will that last for? No one knows the expensive prices of tobacco more than a tobacco user.
Now, of course I don’t want to see anyone smoking because they see someone else doing it and I am aware that public figures have a certain responsibility for those that look up to them, but we must be reasonable about this. If we are to effectively solve issues, let’s look at the roots of the cause rather than the weakest branches. The main target should be a child’s response to images that they see in the media. Even if Santa does quit smoking does not mean that children will be forever rid of smoking characters. Let’s make this a way for children to deny peer pressure and (if any exists in this case) and form a stronger sense of identity. This way, when a child is given a much stronger case of peer pressure, they will already have had practice in standing up for themselves.
Reader, what do you think about this issue? Should Santa change his ways for the children of the future? Is someone like me just completely ignorant of what is really going on? Or does this case represent anxiety driven in the wrong direction?