Merry Christmas with my favourite Christmas story

December 25, 2020 |

As is my tradition on this site at Christmas I reprint one of the most affecting Christmas stories and a brilliant piece of journalistic prose the quality of which is not seen in the current mainstream media.  It is the Sun’s peice from 1897, Yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus.  From the very first time I read this wonderful editorial I was impressed by its clear and precise language.  Virginia O’Hanlon, all of 8 year old, wrote a sweet and touching query about Santa Claus’s existence to The New York Sun.  It wasn’t trashed, ignored or even turned into a joke.  Instead it evoked a response that was both honest and written to and for a young child but dealt with bigger issues of belief, philosophy and the evils of sneering skeptisism which afflicts us today more than it did over 120 years ago. 

It is deservedly one of the great editorials of journalism.  It holds up as well today as it did in that Gilded Age.  One can only hope to hold onto and embrace the optimism and enthusiasm for life and its wonders that the author, Francis Pharcellus Church, so marvelously described in what has become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorials. It was reprinted by the New York Daily News yesterday.

The letter from Virginia was:

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?


The responding Editorial was:

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.

In 1997 the New York Times did a wonderful piece setting out the history and analysis of the Yes Virginia editorial and its impact.  

I wish you one and all a wonderful Christmas and a prosperous 2021. 


Leave a Reply

Verified by MonsterInsights