Monday, December 22, 2008

Yes, Virginia...

When you grow up with a newspaper editor and journalism professor for a Dad and an English teacher for a Mom, some of the things you do for "entertainment" are somewhat interesting. I had great fun when I was growing up, but I doubt that all children enjoyed some of the leisure activities that I did. You see, a lot of our entertainment was "educational"...even though I never really realized that's what it was.

We would have spelling bees on summer vacations. We would play Build-Your-Vocabulary in the car. We had marathon Scrabble tournaments when we visited family in Texas for Christmas. One year, we created our own Presidential Board Game that actually made the Electoral College pretty interesting (a tough task, you can imagine!).

And both Mom and Dad were big into "quoting" famous lines. Dad would quote "Casey at the Bat" during baseball season and Mom loved to quote from famous poems (for some reason, I especially remember "Oh my love's like a red, red rose...").

Perhaps my all-time favorite "quotable" memory in our house, though, revolves around the most famous newspaper editorial of all time. My Dad actually taught editorial writing at college, so he had a soft spot for editorials (how many people can say that? LOL) and his favorite was the one editorial that most of you have probably actually heard of. And we hear it a lot during the Christmas season.

The editorial is the famous, "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," and it resonates today as strongly as it did when it was written back in 1897. It is written with great attention to word choice (to where it almost reads like poetry to me) and answers that age-old, childhood question in a way that is truly beautiful and inspiring.

The most important aspect to celebrating Christmas in our family is the birth of Jesus. He is the reason we celebrate.

But Santa Claus has a soft spot in my own heart too.

I think it's important that we let our children be children and believe in things that are sometimes unbelievable. And I think that it's even more important, as adults, that we look at things with a childlike wonder and appreciation.

So, like my Dad, I love this editorial. If you've never read it in its entirety, I hope you'll read it here and that you'll find some inspiration in its timeless words.

(As some background information, this is what Virginia O'Hanlon said inspired her letter to the newspaper: "Quite 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. It 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.He said, ‘Go ahead, Virginia. I’m sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.’)

"Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus"

By Francis P. Church, first published in The New York Sun in 1897.

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:

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?

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 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.

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.

How can you not LOVE those lines? As I typed it in to post, I read it out loud to Gary and got a little choke in my throat and a tear in my eye.

"The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see"..."Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world."

Thank goodness there is still a Santa Claus...and little four-year-olds to believe in him...and fathers who teach their children that more exists than what we can actually see.


Cheeky said...

Such beautiful words. I needed that this season....more than you can ever know. Thank you! and Merry Christmas.

Gin said...

I love this, Cheryl. I've never really read it before.

I hope you have a merry Christmas.

Heather said...

Thanks for sharing that Cheryl. I had never read the complete response. I hope you have a lovely Christmas and that Santa Claus brings you all you could wish for.

Ms.L said...

It's so lovely.
I still believe in Santa:)

Merry Christmas!

Susie Q said...

I still believe...: )

And I LOVED the least popular songs!! *grin*

Merry Christmas dear Cheryl...I send love and many warm hugs to you and your family.


Lynilu said...

Oh, yes. Thank goodness, indeed.

Corey said...

of course I'd heard that line a thousand times before today. But I didn't know it's origin or reasoning behind it.
That is an awesome editorial. And I agree, it does read like poetry.
Thanks for sharing that.
Hope you have a very Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...


Cheryl Wray said...

Cheeky--Awww, I'm so glad that it touched you. That makes me happy! :-)

Gin--You have a merry Christmas too!

Heather--I'm sure that Santa will be very good to me. He always is...more than I deserve.

Ms. L--Me too (the believing in Santa part!). :-)

Cheryl Wray said...

Susie--Merry, merry Christmas to your sweet family as well.


Corey--It's one of those lines that everyone knows, but not many people really know the story behind it. Merry Christmas to you too!

Anon--Yes, it is.

Kingcover said...

My family keeps telling me that Santa doesn't exist but I don't believe them! How else do you explain the bell ringing I hear going over the top of my roof every Christmas Eve???

...... I can hear it even now! Uh crappers! *looks up tell-tale signs of tinnitus on the interweb* :-(

Merry Christmas C :-)

Monogram Queen said...

This story is in a big book I have titled "Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book". It's 31 years old and I NEVER tire of reading it.

sa said...