Rushville Republican

December 24, 2013

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

By Paul W. Barada
Rushville Republican

---- — It takes quite a few years for my column to fall on Christmas Eve, so I’m going to take advantage of this rare opportunity to enjoy some of this special day with all of you. Once upon a time, actually back on Sept. 21, 1897, a little girl received an answer to a question that had been bothering her. The response to her question appeared in the New York Sun newspaper and was written by newsman Francis P. Church. Church, himself, long ago drifted into obscurity, but his response to the little girl’s letter has become a Christmas classic – well worth reading on this special day.

“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 Clause?

Virginia O’Hanlon

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 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 may 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! Thanks 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 children.”

I doubt that any of us could ever hope to answer the question; “Is there a Santa Claus?” more beautifully or more reassuringly than it was answered over 115 years ago by Francis P. Church. What he wrote to little Virginia O’Hanlon has become the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. It has been reprinted in dozens of languages as well as in books, in movies, and in other editorials. Commonly called, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” Church’s immortal editorial couldn’t be more to the point on this particular day and this particular evening.

The author’s point that Santa Claus is real and that he exists as much as “love and generosity and devotion exist” goes right to the heart of his response to Virginia. He adds, “…you know they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” If a more appropriate analogy could be offered up, I can’t imagine what it would be to prove the existence of Santa Claus – especially on this Christmas Eve.

So, if your children ask you if there really is a Santa Claus coming tonight, I would most respectfully urge you to read them the letter Francis P. Church wrote to a little eight year old girl well over a century ago. I don’t think the question can be answered any better.

That’s –30—for this week and best wishes for a very Merry Christmas to everyone!