Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus…he is real and abiding
Published 1:39 pm Friday, December 17, 2021
In 1897, a child asks a trusted newspaper about the existence of Santa Claus and an anonymous editor answers. Virginia O’Hanlon, eight years old, was told by her classmates there was no Santa Claus. Were her classmates right? Is there really no Santa Claus? Virginia sent a letter to the New York Sun asking, “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus,” the newspaper’s editor handed it to Francis Pharcellus Church, a sardonic Columbia College graduate and veteran Sun writer, for reply. Church reportedly “bristled and pooh-poohed,” yet produced a masterpiece, under deadline, and in fewer than 500 words.
Appearing in the Sun on September 21, 1897, “Is There a Santa Claus” is perhaps the most famous editorial ever written, translated into some 20 languages and even set to music. The press tracked Virginia until her retirement as a 70-year-old school teacher, while Church remained anonymous as the author until his 1906 death.
The editorial, which we publish each Christmas, is as follows:
“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 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 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 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.
Francis B. Church
Editor of the New York Sun