Christmas 2012: Yes, Virginia ...
In September 1897, a letter in the handwriting of a child arrived at The New York Sun. Upon its receipt, the editor summoned Francis P. Church, an editorial writer.
“Here,” he said, “take this letter and write a reply to it.”
Church, somewhat disgruntled over what he considered to be a trivial assignment, returned to his desk; with an air of resignation, he began to compose his answer.
The result was an editorial, published in The Sun on Sept. 21, 1897, and reprinted by request more times than any other piece of newspaper writing. Yet it was not until 1906 that the identity of the author of the editorial was disclosed.
As has been our custom for nearly 75 years, we today reprint the famous New York Sun editorial, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus'':
We take pleasure in answering at once 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:
“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 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 little 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 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 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 external 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 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. 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 lives forever! A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.''