I recently saw that one of the cable channels is going to show “Yes Virginia…” and, having heard the story several times growing up, I decided to do some research on the matter.
The original letter was written by Virginia O’Hanlon in 1897. When her father
found himself unable to answer her question about the existence of Santa Claus, he told her to write the Sun (a prominent New York paper), because if they said there was a Santa Claus there really must be one. An editor for the Sun, Francis Church, who had been a war correspondent during the Civil War saw this as an opportunity to restore the faith and hope that the conflict had stripped from society. Despite the unobtrusive seventh place position on the editorial page the letter and response went on to be the reprinted editorial in any English speaking newspaper.
Virginia was born July 20,1889 in Manhattan. After a brief marriage to Edward Douglas, he deserted her just before the birth of their daughter Laura, she went on to obtain several degrees from prominent universities and become an educator in the New York school system and retired in 1959. Throughout her life she received a constant flow of mail about her letter and quoted the editorial in all responses. On Christmas Eve 1969 Virginia finally got to meet Santa Claus.
After Virginia’s death in 1971 her friends wrote a children’s book “Yes Virginia”, a brief history of the editorial and the main characters, and brought it to Warner Brothers who made it into an Emmy award winning TV show. In 1998 one of Virginia’s grand daughters had the original letter authenticated and appraised at $20,000-$30,000 on Antiques Roadshow.
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 Ninety Fifth Street
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’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
So as we prepare to celebrate Christmas with our families in these time of unrest let’s strive to find the unseen goodness that surrounds us and proudly declare “Yes there is a Santa Claus”.