(Editor's note: On Sept. 27, 1897, a little girl named Virginia O'Hanlon wrote an unusual letter to the editor of the New York Sun, prompting the Sun to state, "We take great pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered as one of the friends of the Sun.
“I am eight years old. Some of my friends say there is no Santa Clause. Papa says, "If you see it in the Sun, it's so.” Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?”
The newspaper's response has become a Christmas classic, one we thought readers might like to reflect upon as they sit around with family and friends to enjoy Christmas Eve 2017.
In 1906, the newspaper disclosed that the editorial had been penned by a staff writer named Francis P. Church. JLW)
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 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 the world be if there was 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 watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign 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 who ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, and romance can push aside that curtain and view the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else so 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.