The Story Behind “Yes, Virginia…”
“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?
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”
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 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 may 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 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 heart of childhood.
By Chris Furguson
Written as a response to a young girl’s question about Santa Claus, the Editorial known as “Is there a Santa Claus” and the famous reply “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus” has become an emotional part of American holiday history.
In 1897, New York Doctor Philip O’Hanlon was asked by his then eight-year-old daughter, Virginia, if Santa Claus existed, since she had been told by her friends that Santa was not real.
Hanlon, possibly passing the buck, told his daughter to write to the New York Sun, a prominent newspaper at the time, saying “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”
The writer of the reply, Francis Pharcellus Church, a war correspondent during the American Civil War, saw much suffering during the conflict.
Church used Virginia’s letter to deal with more underlying philosophical issues than the question implied.
While the original editorial was buried under several others on September, including one about a “chainless bicycle,” the editorial moved many readers at the time.
Over 112 years later, the original editorial is still the most reprinted editorial in English.
Virginia O’Hanlon eventually became a teacher in 1912 after graduating with a Doctorate from Fordham University.
O’Hanlon retired from the educational field in 1959 and eventually died in 1971.
The original letter was put on Antiques Roadshow on PBS in 1998 and appraised for $20-$30,000.
Church died in 1906.