Santa: Making glad the heart of childhood


English: Thomas Nast's most famous drawing, &q...

English: Thomas Nast’s most famous drawing, “Merry Old Santa Claus”, from the January 1, 1881 edition of Harper’s Weekly. Thomas Nast immortalized Santa Claus’ current look with an initial illustration in an 1863 issue of Harper’s Weekly, as part of a large illustration titled “A Christmas Furlough” in which Nast set aside his regular news and political coverage to do a Santa Claus drawing. The popularity of that image prompted him to create another illustration in 1881. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time was published in the The New York Sun in 1897, and was the work of Francis Pharcellus Church. Each Christmas I seek out this editorial  to read, for it is a reminder of the true spirit of Christmas  to all of us former children who no longer write letters to Santa. Which one of us will ever forget the magic of waking to find that Santa had called while we slept, and left unimaginable treasures by our beds,or under the tree, or in the living room? –  Perhaps a train set, perhaps a spinning top, perhaps a doll or a book or an orange or a meccano set.Today as my sister and  I talked about this we remembered that Santa left one toy and a book or jigsaw for  the 6 of us –  things that stood out were :  a big humming spinning top, a black push along dog on 4 wheels, a three-note melodeon, my brother’s train set, a doll that cried, a big doll whose arms and legs were joined up by elastic, a jigsaw, a red tin pedal operated car and a big red three-wheeled tricycle.

As we grow older the magic disappears, but it is good to remind ourselves that it is still there in the form of joy and romance and kindness and friendship, not to mention in the faces of enthralled and delighted children at Christmastime. So here it is once again – the story of  8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, who wrote to the  New York Sun newspaper in September 1897, to ask  Does Santa Exist?  Virginia’s family read this newspaper and set great store by it as an authority on many things. The reply to her letter has stood the test of time.

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 O'Hanlon

This is Virginia O’Hanlon who posed the challenging question (Image Wikimedia Commons)

The original letter sent asking about the vera...

The original letter sent asking about the veracity of santa claus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Francis Church a journalist,  was asked to reply and his response has appeared in many publications, in films, on stamps, on posters in about a dozen languages  for over a century. His response was :

Francis Pharcellus Church, author of the famou...

Francis Pharcellus Church, author of the famous editorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

The editorial was something of a sensation  and the New York Sun reprinted it every year for over 50 years until the newspaper closed down in 1949.

Original article in The New York Sun

Original article in The New York Sun (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In Ireland, as well as in many other countries across the world children will write letters to their cultural  Santa as they have done for decades and they will continue  to do for generations to come and he will continue to make glad the heart not only the heart of childhood, but the hearts of children of all ages. Merry Christmas!



Filed under Ireland, Irish Culture, Irish Traditions

11 responses to “Santa: Making glad the heart of childhood

  1. How I love this, SV! Many, many thanks and a very Happy Christmas.

  2. I love this! Thanks for sharing it. I’ve heard the story and seen the movie, but have never actually seen the newspaper article and letter. I think the best part of Christmas is being around children who believe. It makes it seem that all is right with the world.

    • Delighted to hear that you enjoyed reading the originals. It’s such a beautiful story! I agree that the innocence of children adds that special bit of stardust! I hope that you have a very special Christmas!

  3. I never tire of hearing this story and, as it’s 8.25pm here in South Australia on Christmas Eve, right now is the perfect time to enjoy it again. Many thanks Angela and wishing you, and your loved ones, all the joy that Christmas can bring. xxx

  4. Kerry O'Gorman

    When I worked for Canada Post we would “help” answer letters to Santa which children were invited to send free of postage.
    It was these sweet, unusual, sometimes greedy little letters that kept the magic alive in the writers and in us, the helpers who answered them.
    Oh yes, Virginia, there is a Santa!

    • I am thrilled to hear of your personal experience – what a lovely input to the magic of Christmas! I hope that you will record your personal oral history as it is totally unique and worthy of remembrance. Thank you so much for visiting and leaving a comment – very, very much appreciated! May your 2014 be all that you need it to be!

  5. Another fascinating post – thankyou for all the inspiration your blog has been this year. I’m giving you this Blogger of The year Award:
    Best wishes for a magical 2014, Bia 🙂

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