After exhausting herself and her parents with questions on the perennial topic of Santa Claus, eight year old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor of the New York Sun for a definitive answer. That was all of 120 years ago in 1897.
Her short and to the point letter was answered by the editor of the day one Francis Church. Thought the letter and Miss O’Hanlon immediately entered American folklore, Mr. Church’s part in it didn’t become apparent until sometime after his death in 1906.
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?
115 West Ninety Fifth 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 about 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 external 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 you 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, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart.
Only faith, 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 lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
“Is There a Santa Claus?” was first printed in the September 21, 1897 edition of The New York Sun.
Wishing everyone out there, wherever you are tonight and whatever your circumstances, the best of what you’d wish for yourself for now the the approaching and lengthening days of 2018.
Thank you for your help and support during 2017 and I look forward to more of the same for the year ahead.
Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Peaceful New Year…..John Reidy, The Maine Valley Post 24-12-2017