As a new pipe smoker, I am, of course, seeing pipes everywhere. Stephen Colbert featured one on his show a few weeks ago. And I just went to the movies this weekend, and it seemed like nearly everyone was puffing on a pipe for most of the first act (Okay, so the movie was Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey so that might not be quite as surprising as could be).
However, obvious pipe sightings aside, what I am surprised to notice is how pipes are interwoven with the Christmas season. They pop up everywhere, from classic cartoon characters to more modern movies and music to decorations and iconic imagery.
Of course, our modern image of Santa starts with the jolly ole saint downing a bottle of Coca Cola, but the fabled illustrator and chronicler of Americana Norman Rockwell also pictured him with a pipe nestled in his hand or clenched between his droll little mouth drawn up like the a bow.
That could be attributed to the 18th Century poem, T'was the Night Before Christmas: A Visit from St. Nicholas. Clement Clarke Moore (and/or Major Henry Livingston Jr.) had Father Christmas smoking a fine blend of tobacco (Surely, Kris Kringle would only smoke the best) as he filled those stockings hung by the chimney.
"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath."
Images of the ancient, decidedly trimmer Father Christmas often show him with a graceful Churchwarden or Oom Paul styled pipes, but most are modern renderings which may not reflect what the early followers of Christmas envisioned for the gift bearer. However, they are there.
Santa isn't the only bearer of Christmas magic shown with a pipe. Frosty the Snowman, of song and animation has a Corncob pipe clenched under his button nose and two-eyes made of coal.
And its not only legends and cartoons that we see pipes interlaced with the holidays. The classic Crooner Bing Crosby was a well-known pipe enthusiast, and he and his pipes are forever intertwined with Christmas thanks to his movies White Christmas and Holiday Inn, as well as his many Christmas Albums with the singer posing with a briar pipe on the cover.
Other Christmas movies we watch every year with our family and friends also have pipes show up in one way or another. Jimmy Stewart has one in a wonderful life, and good guy lawyer in charge of proving Santa's identity, Fred Gailey (John Payne) breaks out the pipe and tobacco during a visit to his girlfriend's apartment. There are probably several more I could reference. I seem to recall the Ghost of Christmas Present smoking on a Churchwarden, but who knows which version of A Christmas Carol that was.
Anyway, the point is that I never really noticed how much pipe smoking has been woven into the holiday season. It is subtle, and really doesn't have a message of its own, like the Christmas tree, the manger, menorah an aluminum pole or Yule log, but it is part of the universal ideal of celebration, feasting and enjoying the better things in life...indeed to celebrate life itself that the Holiday Season has come to represent.
Happy Holidays from everyone here at Smokingpipes.com.
Christopher Huff: Copywriter