ditor’s note: As we stand on the brink of Christmas, The Herald is pleased to present one of the most famous editorials ever penned. In 1897 friends of young Virginia O’Hanlon planted doubts about the existence of Santa Claus in her mind, so Virginia went to her father hoping to confirm Father Christmas’ existence. After her father ducked the question, Virginia remembered how questions were often settled by turning to The New York Sun’s Question and Answer column. “I’m just going to write The Sun and find out the real truth,” Virginia told her father, who replied, “Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.” Editor Francis P. Church’s response was an instant sensation. O’Hanlon received queries about the exchange until her death in 1971.
We take 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:
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 O’Hanlon
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 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 who 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.