Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus – a happy memory from my childhood

December 25, 2008 |

We all have moving moments in our childhood when we stumble upon a beautiful image or wonderful prose, so magnificent to our young eyes that we feel we can move mountains and want to change the world to meet that image. One of those moments for me was reading the “Yes Virginia” editorial. It captured what clear, pure prose should be with a wonderful imagery. It is described as one of the most famous editorials ever written. A big call. But in the cynical issues driven world of OP ED and editorial writing it stands out. What also inspired me was that a big city newspaper was prepared to take the innocent inquiry of a young child to heart and respond.  Sure there was probably an alterior motive, it made everyone look good.  But it didn’t have to be done.

Now that I have a blog I can go all misty from time to time. And Christmas day is the time to do it. Here it is:

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

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

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 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.

It is written in in the 19th century style, it was written in 1897, so appears a little stilted to our eyes. I love that slight formality. It remembers a time when people love working language for its own sake, for the cadence and rhythm. For more information about this wonderful story and the author of the piece have a look here.

A Merry Christmas to all who read this. May you have a happy and holy festive season!

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