pleasure in answering thus prominently the
communication below, expressing at the same time our
great gratification that its faithful author is
numbered among the friends of The Sun:
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?
your little friends are wrong. They have been
affected by the skepticism of a sceptical 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.
Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!!
People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9.
P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a
Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and
became one of the most famous editorials ever written.
It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897,
almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted
annually until 1949 when the paper went out of
years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon
recalled the events that prompted her letter:
naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never
disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys
and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was
filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a
little evasive on the subject.
was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts
came up as to how to pronounce a word or some
question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to
the Question and Answer column in The Sun. Father
would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's
so,' and that settled the matter.
'Well, I'm just going to write The Sun and find out
the real truth,' I said to father.
said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give
you the right answer, as it always does.' "
Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite
letter found its way into the hands of a veteran
editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister,
Church had covered the Civil War for The New York
Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20
years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer.
Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto,
"Endeavour to clear your mind of cant."
When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the
editorial page, especially those dealing with
theology, the assignments were usually given to
had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most
controversial matter, and he was burdened with the
responsibility of answering it.
there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the
letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no
avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must
answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and
he began his reply which was to become one of the
most memorable editorials in newspaper history.
married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died
in April, 1906, leaving no children.
O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with
a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following
year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in
1912 she began teaching in the New York City school
system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years,
she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she
received a steady stream of mail about her Santa
Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an
attractive printed copy of the Church editorial.
Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at
the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.