Monday, December 19, 2005

"YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS"

Still steaming over Congressman Ackermans lack of respect for those who celebrate Christmas, I was so happy and comforted when in today’s NY Sun I read a reprint from a letter sent to the Sun in 1897. In September 1897, an eight-year-old New York girl named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun asking, "Is there a Santa Claus?" In reply Francis P. Church wrote an editorial, which pleased so many readers that the Sun printed it every year during the Christmas season, from 1897 to 1949.

As a father of a four-year-old son who for the past month has seen my sons eyes gleam with anticipation asking each morning if today is Christmas and when he can open the last door on the Advent calendar, the letter and response left me touched and sad for people like Congressman Ackerman who want to take it away. The letter and editorial, from Sept. 21, 1897 is as follows:

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 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 what 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 child-like 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 supernatural 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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