Ever since the centuries-old story of a gift-giving old elf was immortalized in the 1822 poem “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” children have wondered if there really is a Santa Claus.
The following question and answer originally appeared on the editorial page of the now-defunct New York Sun in 1897. The response, written without a byline by Francis Pharcellus Church, is the most reprinted editorial of all time.
We are pleased to print it again as Christmas approaches.
Dear Editor: I am 8 years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in the Sun, it’s so.”
Please tell 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 to their little minds.
All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours, a man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intelligence, 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 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 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, but that is no sign 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 the fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s not proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable to 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 the 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 he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times a thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
REPRINTED FROM THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM