Yes, Virginia.


Like every Christmas story, this one is of new life in the dead of winter. Every year, there’s a church choir, a nativity scene, flour-covered hands making holiday delicacies, laughter straight from the belly, and too many Hallmark movies for one’s own good. My family makes fun of me, year after year, for the number of Christmas movies that I own and watch repeatedly once Thanksgiving has soaked up its fair share of holiday attention. It’s a mere two days after Turkey Day glory and I’ve already hit up the classics: White ChristmasMiracle on 34th StreetHow the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. Cue the Bing Crosby soundtrack… I’ll take a bow later.

What is it about Christmas and the twinkling lights that set the scene for narratives defining some of life’s most revealing moments? What is it about the holidays that inspire individuals to see the best in their neighbors? To understand the importance of adversity we face each day? To put forth the finest their hearts have to offer? To be the decent human beings that they are? It’s always the detail – right down to the smell of pine trees and fresh-fallen snow – that tells the story of the holidays.

My favorite words during the Christmas season are the words of little Virginia and the New York Sun’s infamous editorial response:

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,

New York City

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 eternal light with which childhood fill 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 they 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, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, cold tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view – and picture the supernatural 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.

Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897

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