HUNTINGTON, Pa, December 1, 2011—Christmas lights twinkling in the night sky, the scent of pine, the taste of warm cookies, and the image of Santa placing brightly wrapped presents under the tree - such are the wonders and indefinable magic of a childhood Christmas. A plethora of these images are easily seen in the mind’s eye when reminiscing about unforgettable memories of Christmases past.
The essence of the magic of Christmas was perhaps never more aptly described than in an editorial written over 110 years ago in The New York Sun in response to a letter penned by a little girl named Virginia O’Hanlon. Virginia wrote the letter to the editor questioning the existence of Santa Claus because her father told her, “If you see it in The Sun, it is so …” The editorial that incited readers to hold onto child-like faith and all that is good was written by Francis P. Church, a distinguished reporter at The New York Sun.
The editorial, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” not only touched the hearts and minds of readers across the nation, but also precipitated the writing of books and plays about the story. Even today, books are read and plays are performed about the little girl and the reporter who restored her faith in Santa Claus and the wonderment of Christmas. While literary works about the story have been embellished with fictitious details about the characters, the power of the words in the original editorial remain, eliciting memories of childhood Christmases in young and old alike.
The editorial, which reaffirmed that Santa Claus exists “as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist …” reminded readers that the warm, comforting feelings of Christmas should not fade with age or time. In fact, in a world where adversity and strife can overtake our thoughts, pushing positive attitudes and multiple blessings into our subconscious minds, we should strive to maintain that warmth and love that emanate from friends and family at Christmas to all year. What a paradigm shift there would be if we focused on the positive and held onto the goodness, and pushed the negativity into the recesses of our psyche? I, for one, wish that love would dominate our lives. Is that not what the Bible espouses as well?
We, in today’s society, could benefit from the words of the editorial written over a century ago to children and adults who “have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age”. This speaks loudly to all hearts, minds, and souls who espouse the true meaning of Christmas.
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 man 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, 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 loves 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. (By Francis P. Church for The New York Sun)
Church’s prose lives on today because it continues, like Santa Claus, “to make glad the heart of childhood.”
The ethereal, poetic words written by a newspaper man also reverberate the importance of maintaining the inherent belief in Heaven, in God, and in all that is good in this world. While the allusions to faith in God are subtle, they are there, adding to the lasting value of the words.
While intangible, our beliefs, our devotion, and our love for mankind are never stronger than at Christmas. They are sung in the words of carols, heard in the church bells on a cold, clear night, and felt in a the serenity of a church on Christmas Eve. These aspects of Christmas will live on for posterity, as long as we continue to espouse them and to teach them to our children, those who hold the key to the true wonderment of Christmastide.
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