In 1897, an 8-year-old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, came home from school upset because her classmates had told her there was no Santa Claus. She asked her father if this was so and he responded “If you see it in the sun, it’s so.” He then suggested she write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper and ask the editor whether Santa Claus existed. He unwittingly gave one of the paper’s editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question and address the philosophical issues behind it.
Church was a war correspondent during the American Civil War, a time that saw great suffering and a lack of hope and faith in much of society. The paper ran the editorial. Its message was very moving to many people who read it. More than a century later it remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper and has appeared in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.
Virginia’s letter read:
“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?”
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”
The editor, Church, responded:
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, nor 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.
(Michael Williams is the author of “Stranger than Fiction: The Lincoln Curse.” The book is a collection of 50 strange and unusual but true stories. They leave the reader convinced that Mark Twain was right when he penned “Truth is stranger than fiction.”
The book is 187 pages in softbound edition with numerous photos. It can be purchased from amazon.com for $19.95 plus shipping and handling or one can save shipping costs and $2 on the purchase price by ordering a signed copy directly from the author. Send $17.95 to 269 Palmer Road Gatlinburg, TN. 37738.
The book is available in Kindle on Amazon.com for $3.99. For more information visit StrangerThanFictionNews.com.)