Well, Christmas is knocking on our doors. I hope you are ready and are able to spend time with friends and family, which is the best gift one can receive. Throughout my newspaper career, I have run the following editorial, the most famous newspaper editorial of all time, reprinted here because it fits the season.
As children grow older and wiser, parents inevitably are faced with the question, “Is there a Santa Claus?” When Virginia O’Hanlon asked that question of her parents in 1897, they suggested she write the New York Sun for an answer. She did, and Francis P. Church, a Civil War correspondent, wrote an editorial response which has become an American literary classic. Mr. Church died in 1906. The New York Sun closed its doors in 1950. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas died in 1971 after a distinguished career as a teacher and administrator in the New York City school system. However, the letter from Virginia, and Mr. Church’s response, will live forever as a part of our Christmas heritage. It is still a wonderful answer to a very difficult question.
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, 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 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. 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 hearts of childhood.
From The New York Sun, September 21,1897
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