Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

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:

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 sceptical 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
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 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.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!

From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.(Public Domain)

Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter thirty-six years after it was printed:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had
never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little
boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was
filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a
little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any

doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word or some
question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to
the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father would
always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,'
and that settled the matter.

"Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find

out the real truth," I said to father.

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will

give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

Francis P. Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and worked for 20 years at The New York Sun , more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. The son of a Baptist minister he usually received the more controversial subjects on the editorial page, in particular those dealing with theology. A sardonic man, Church had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant."

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church said he knew that there was no avoiding the question. He had to answer, and it was imperative that he answer truthfully. And so he turned to the task and began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history. Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" originally appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, more than a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until the paper went out of business 1949.

Virginia O'Hanlon grew up to become a teacher and principal for the New York City school system retiring after 47 years. Whenever she received mail about her Santa Claus letter she penned a reply and attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Public domain text taken from

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