Saturday, December 8, 2007

Yes, Virginia...'s been a long time since that old article was written, but I re-visit it every year. I think it's my holiday tradition. I love the sentiment, and eloquence. Maybe I'm still a regency-buff at heart. I'm always amazed that people who use the saying don't know where it came from...

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

Way back when this kid, Virginia O'Hanlon was small, she wondered if there really was a Santa Claus--her friends told her there wasn't, and she asked her Dad who told her to write to the paper and ask. Guess he didn't know what to say.

Francis Church was an early war correspondent. He was there at some of the worst battles of the Civil War, paper in hand, watching as thousands of people got blown away up close and personal. The Civil War was a moving experiment transitioning away from the Napoleonic style of set pieces into modern slash and burn. It was bloody carnage and this guy was known for screaming, "Clear your mind of cant!" He had no patience for crap and when the Sun wanted acid exposes and scathing rhetoric, Church was right there, tearing it down.

The editors wanted something nasty. They thought in giving this kid's letter to Church he'd tear down Christmas. But he came back with...


Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except that which 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 countless 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 have 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 that 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 the strongest men, 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 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 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. that.

It's one of the most profound statements of faith I've ever read. Like Saint-Expiry, Church held on to his belief in something more.

His faith reached out, and Virginia grew up to teach chronically ill children. Forty years later, she wrote this...

Dear children of yesterday and today, when that question was asked, I, a little girl, was interested in finding out the answer just for myself. Now, grown up and a teacher, I want so much that all little children believe there really is a Santa Claus. For I understand how essential a belief in Santa Claus, and in fairies, too, is to a happy childhood.

Some little children doubt that Santa still lives because often their letters, for one reason or another, never seem to reach him. Nurses in hospitals know who some of these children are. Teachers in great city schools know others.

Dear children of yesterday, won't you try to seek out these trusting children of today and make sure that their letters in some way may reach Santa Claus so that 'he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood'? That, I believe, is the best way of proving there is a Santa Claus, for ourselves and for the children.

My kids are pretty old. Hell, my daughter is fourteen. But every year, I'm there, perpetuating Santa, because for me--he exists as surely as the roof over my head and the food in my mouth. It's the season of small miracles, and I believe.


Jeanna said...

I never knew that story. Thought it was just a Hallmark movie. What's with all the fairy talk?

Alice Audrey said...

I remember this from a couple of decades ago. I can't remember where I saw it, though. Thanks for posting it here. I'd completely forgotten.

jodi said...

..way back in the early Victorian, fairies were the in-topic. Lol, I think that was another Hallmark movie. Sort of like the X-files and aliens. It's sort of like if someone looked back on us from a century out, they'd wonder at the text-talk and obession with Roswell. Just period-speak.