It was 120 years ago, in 1897, when a little girl wrote to the New York Sun’s editorial board. In a time before cellphones and social media, the local newspaper was the touchstone of truth and often the only way to know what was happening in the world. She reached out to the most trusted source she knew, seeking an answer to a very important question, “Is there a Santa Claus?”
Her name was Virginia and her letter was received by then editor, Mr. Francis Pharcellus Church, a former Civil War correspondent. One can only imagine the human brutality Mr. Church must have experienced in covering a war that pitted “brother against brother.” And yet, when asked to confirm the existence of Santa Claus, Mr. Church, in the most elegant way, penned perhaps the best description of what it means to be human.
From the Buffalo Rising family, we wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a most wondrous New Year.
“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”
An editorial published in 1897 by the New York Sun.
Narrated by Jay Moran.
Video produced and edited by Buffalo Branded for Buffalo Rising.
120 years ago, in a newspaper called the New York Sun there was a lead editorial that was written in response to a brief note from an 8 year old girl. You probably know it. Her name was Virginia. The year was 1897, and she wrote,
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If it’s in the Sun, it’s so.”
Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O’Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-Fifth Street
And this is what Mr. Francis Pharcellus Church, a former Civil War correspondent and editor at the Sun, printed in response:
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 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 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 seen and unseen in 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 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.