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Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Sunday, December 24, 2006

(Photo)
Eighteen-month-old Caitie Cox of New Madrid prepares to open a Christmas present.
Editor's note: For the past 25 years or so we have shared the following story with readers every Christmas. The words of Francis P. Church will ring true today as they did more than 100 years ago when first written.

In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon became worried when her friends told her there was no Santa Claus. Her father advised her to write to the New York Sun to find out the truth, and the reply by Francis P. Church became a classic:

The letter followed Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas throughout her teaching career in the New York City school system and her retirement. She died May 13, 1971, at the age of 81.

Virginia wrote to the Sun:

"Dear Editor:

"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

"115 West 95th Street"

Church's reply, published in the Sun on Sept. 21, 1897, was:

"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 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 child-like 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, fancy, 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 he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."