Is there a Santa Claus? This headline appeared in the September 21, 1897 editorial page of the New York Sun. The question was posed by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon. Her letter to the editor reads as follows:
“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?”
~ Virgina O’Hanlon
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street
New York Sun editor Francis Pharcellus Church responded to Virginia’s letter with this now famous editorial.
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 knowlege.
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 was no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if their 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.
110 years later we live in a world infinitely more skeptical than the one Church decried. Many view Santa as just another marketing device to feed our consumerist frenzy. He is real only in as far as he serves the bottom line and provides a small slice of innocence to an ever shrinking childhood.
In our world, one where knowledge is controlled by economists and scientists; if you cannot weigh something, measure it, or define it in objective terms, it’s not real. Santa doesn’t fit into this worldview. He cannot be observed or tested in a lab. Therefore, the reasoning goes, he is not real.
Santa represents one thing – The Possible. He cannot be conclusively proved. Neither can your dreams, determination, hope, compassion, or most of the other things that make life worth living. You cannot measure a dream or weigh determination or define hope. These concepts are not susceptible to the scientific method or measurable on a profit and loss statement. And, yet, can you deny their reality?
They, like Santa, are only observable indirectly by their effects on the world. What would the world be without dreams, determination, hope, or compassion? It would be devoid of The Possible the same as if there was no Santa. Even as adults, we must continue to believe in The Possible or risk being stuck in what is; unable to move forward.
So, Virginia, is there a Santa? Yes, there is, but those looking for Santa in chimneys will never find him. He lives only in the hearts of determined, hopeful, compassionate dreamers willing to suspend disbelief long enough see what is possible.
Be peaceful Be prosperous
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