“We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, express at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of THE SUN”…..
Thus began a stunningly simple but poignant editorial of hope and imagination appearing in the September 21, 1897 issue of the New York SUN under the headline asking, Is there a Santa Claus?
Little did the author of the letter, Virginia O’Hanlon or the newspaper’s columnist Frances Church, brother of the newspaper’s publisher, know that this fateful letter and response would become the most reprinted editorial in the English language and as such the most famous in American journalism.
It is notable that Church’s editorial of hope and imagination contrasted with his cynical view of life since he recorded the country’s greatest tragedy as a Civil War reporter.
In these remaining days leading up to Christmas, it is appropriate to reconnect with the unique magic of this season. There is no question that the past year has been an emotional, financial and physical challenge for everyone, which would make cynicism a common response for the season. But all of these cares and frustrations from the past year should be set aside for one moment to marvel at mankind’s ability to imagine, dream and then accomplish greater things because of those dreams. That is what makes us so special in God’s creation.
What follows is a little girl’s fears that are replaced with hope and promised by a dry, cynical but imaginative writer.
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.
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.
Merry Christmas !