First lady Michelle Obama stopped in the middle of a public reading of “The Night Before Christmas” on Monday night to advise a group of schoolchildren that Santa Claus has given up smoking his trademark pipe for health reasons.
The scene of the reading of the famous anonymous poem was a children’s hospital in Washington, D.C., reports CNSNews.
Ryan Seacrest co-read the poem with the first lady.
“Well, we have a story to tell you,” Obama said, “a story about Christmas night and this guy named, uh –”
“Old St. Nick,” Seacrest said.
“Ryan and I are gonna read together,” Obama explained. “You guys ready?”
“‘Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse,” the first lady read.
Obama and Seacrest exchanged verses until they got to the part where Santa Claus is described as having a “stump of a pipe” “tight in his teeth.”
“I think St. Nick gave up smoking,” the first lady broke into the poem to add. “This was a long time back.”
“This was written way back in the day,” Seacrest helpfully observed.
“Way back in the day,” Obama assured the children.
Obama’s interjection comes at roughly the three-and-a-half minute mark of the video below.
“A Visit from St. Nicholas” — the actual name of the poem — was first published in a New York newspaper in 1823.
Seacrest also made his own interjection, saying “I mean this as a compliment” before reading the part about Santa’s “little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly.”
A question-and-answer session followed the reading.
Seacrest said his favorite Christmas song is “Silent Night” — especially when everyone who is singing holds a lighted candle.
The first lady said she enjoys “This Christmas” by heavily-tattooed singer Chris Brown.
George Washington University law professor John Banzhaf notes that tobacco smoking has been severely restricted, largely for health reasons, since the poem’s publication in 1823.