Yuletides are often full of surprises, and this year’s has been no exception.

Santa Claus once touted Lucky Strike cigarettes as “a gift that brings pleasure to every home.” But that was 60 years ago.

In recent times, that pleasure has been the target of fatwas in many parts of the US and in those parts of Iraq controlled by Isis.

After seizing control of Kirkuk in June, Isis threatened to whip anybody selling cigarettes.

But surprise! By September the jihadists were forced to drop their ban on cigarettes.

It turned out that some heavy-smoking Iraqis could endure Isis’ cruelty but not its ban on smoking, and the jihadists needed their support.

Lynn and I had just gotten out of bed Monday morning when the phone rang and Lynn picked it up. Surprise, the caller was a news reporter who said there was a rumor going around that I had died. Lynn was shocked: “What are you talking about!”

Yes, I turned 71 last month, but as Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” Nonetheless, I will state for the record, as Twain did, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” (In Twain’s case, the rumor began with a cousin being severely sick in London for two or three weeks.)

Cartons of cigarettes were popular Christmas presents in the 1950s. “I’m sending Chesterfields to all my friends,” president-to-be Ronald Reagan proclaimed.

At the time, he was starring in the 1951 movie “Hong Kong.”

That movie is not to be confused with the 1933 movie “King Kong.” Whether or not Reagan tried out for the title role in that earlier film, he didn’t get it.

President Reagan’s fans called him “the great communicator.” I was never sure why. “I am not worried about the deficit,” President Reagan once said. “It is big enough to take care of itself.”

When actor Ed Asner criticized Reagan’s foreign policy, the actor-turned-president shot back: “What does an actor know about politics?”

At times the late president simply seemed to not realize what he was saying: “We are trying to get unemployment to go up, and I think we’re going to succeed.”

President George W. Bush was likewise known for such verbal missteps: “Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.”

If we’re going to have convoluted syntax emanating from the White House, the person we need to lead us would be a wise-cracking, Groucho Marx type. At least he could lift our spirits with such wisdom as: “Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”

Or: “One morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got in my pajamas I don’t know.”

Or: “Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.”

I’ll sign off by sharing with you my favorite Yuletide song, The White Snows of Winter. It’s based on Brahms 1st Symphony and sung by….  Surprise!….  The Kingston Trio.