In 1897, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, a coroner’s assistant on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was asked by his then eight-year-old daughter, Virginia, whether Santa Claus really existed. Virginia had begun to doubt there was a Santa Claus, because her friends had told her that he did not exist.
Dr. O’Hanlon suggested she write to the New York Sun, a prominent New York City newspaper at the time, assuring her that “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” While he may have been passing the buck, he unwittingly gave one of the paper’s editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question, and address the philosophical issues behind it.
Here is Virginias letter to the editor….and his response to 8 year old Virginia.
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?
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 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!!!!
Coincidentally, Francis Church was a war correspondent during the American Civil War, a war that was in large part being waged to end slavery (a fact that has still to this day not made its way to certain segments of our population). It was a time which saw great suffering and a corresponding lack of hope and faith throughout much of society. Although the paper ran the editorial in the seventh place on the editorial page, below even an editorial on the newly invented “chainless bicycle” its message was very moving to many people who read it.
Cut to 2009……Comcast has established an all Obama Channel, Pepsi has “changed” their logo to resemble Obamas Campaign logo, Verizon has made thousands of “robo-calls” urging customers to watch the $150,000,000 “historic, made for primetime…..Obama Inaugural Circus” and don’t forget — you can remember this historical circus forever by purchasing your very own “Obama Commemorative Coins”…..hurry and get yours while supplies last!
More than a century has passed since Francis Church wrote his editorial piece which to date remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language. So one can only speculate that the Obama-Palooza Mania being thrust on the American People by the MSM, Corporate America and those who “follow” The Obama, will mark the beginning of the new “most printed” editorial to ever run in any newspaper in the English language, i.e…………..
“Yes Peggy….there really is a Santa Claus”
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