Yes, Virginia, and all others, Santa lives on

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 24, 2007

This famous editorial was written by Francis P. Church. By the time he wrote this in 1897, Church was a veteran editor. He was the anonymous editorial writer for the New York Sun.

Prior to joining the Sun, this son of a Baptist minister covered the Civil War for the New York Times.

His co-workers saw Church as a sort of solitary fellow. He married shortly after writing this editorial. He died in 1906.

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As for Virginia, she went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her master&8217;s from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal.

After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O&8217;Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.

Although this editorial was written in 1897, the Sun published it each Christmas until 1949 when the newspaper went out of business.

Now, newspapers all over the nation publish this editorial as part of their Christmas for readers.

Here is Francis Church&8217;s editorial:

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:

Dear Editor&8212;

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, &8220;If you see it in The Sun, it&8217;s so.&8221; Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O&8217;Hanlon

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&8217;s or children&8217;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&8217;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&8217;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.