Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

It’s been 116 years since Virginia O’Hanlon sought the truth about Santa from the New York Sun.

In over a century, the lives of children — and their parents—have increased in complexity by a factor of ten.

Man landed on the moon, communism rose and fell, countries changed names and borders, Elvis begat Jagger, who in turn led to “gangsta rap”. The kidnap and murder of children, which made world headlines for the Lindbergh family, now touches the lives of hundreds of families annually. Children begin learning at ages two and three about “stranger danger,” AIDS and sexual abuse.

The age of innocence is gone.

But that doesn’t mean that Virginia O’Hanlon’s innocent question to an anonymous editor is irrelevant in today’s world. Far from it.

Today, more than ever, we all need to be reminded of the good that dwells in even the meanest spirit, of the hope that fires our most ambitious dreams. That, yes, there is a Santa Claus, and he lives in all our hearts.

So here, as a Christmas gift to us all, is Francis Pharcellus Church’s editorial response to Virginia, first printed in The New York Sun on Sept. 21, 1897. Merry Christmas.

“We take pleasure in an-swering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

‘Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old.

Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.

Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.’

Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

 

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West 95th Street’

 

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world around him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as & dreary as if there were no Virginias. There  would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We  should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God he lives and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

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