Wednesday, December 24, 2014

"Is There A Santa Claus?"

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: It's Christmas Eve today, and rather than blather on and distract you, on this, the most magical night of the year, I'd like to share with you a piece of writing that is very dear to my heart. Everyone knows the take-away line - it drives my daughter Virginia mad every December - but not everyone reads the whole of the essay, which contains some of the sweetest thoughts about Christmas magic - and Virginias - ever written.

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.
                   -Francis P. Church, The New York Sun, 1897


  1. What a lovely reminder that the spirit of Christmas touches all of our lives with its special magic. Thanks for sharing this timeless piece --- and the wonderful photographs . . . .
    Merry Christmas.

  2. Truly lovely. And lovely pix! Merry Christmas Eve, Reds. Thank you all for the gift you give us every day of a glimpse into your lives, of so many fascinating author guests, and of the business of authoring.

  3. Oh, my goodness. Thank you.

    Yesterday I stood at Quincy MArket to help raise money for charity--my job was to stand next to Santa and jingle the bells to encourage people to come get their photo taken with the big guy. The looks of joy on the kids' faces will fuel me through the rest of the year!
    (Okay, some were baffled, and one a little cranky, but all good!)
    It was quite a wonderful experience.

    And this is perfect for this morning, Julia!

  4. How lovely. I don't think I've read the entire essay in a long time. Thanks, Julia!

    Merry Christmas Eve to all the Reds, too!

  5. What a perfect way to begin my Christmas Eve morning. Though I have read this piece many times over the years it is always a good reminder. I loved your pictures and they set off memories of when mine was little. The year my girl was the Mary in the church pagent, baking and just the joy of family at the holidays. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas.

  6. I have loved this essay since I first read it as a child. (Very appropriate for writers, don't you think?)

    So thanks, Julia, for the reminder. And thanks for sharing Virginia!

  7. Perfect post for today, Julia! I hadn't read the whole piece in a while either. Your pictures of Youngest are fantastic! Such a pretty girl and good sport for the pictures.

    Although it is a rainy, dreary day here, I have now turned on the Christmas tree lights and read the Sun letter so that I am reminded of the magic of Christmas. And, the best part for me is the gathering of family with that special joy of the season in our hearts. Tomorrow will be the first time in a year and a half that both of our adult children will be with us. Oh, and with my son and his fiance spending the night here tonight, I get to do stockings. So excited!

    Merry Christmas to all of you wonderful Reds and those who comment on the blog! I find joy every day through this blog.

  8. Those pictures of Youngest - now unmasked as Virginia - are Christmases in chronological order; she's nine in the first one and fourteen in the last.

    Ross and I have been reminiscing how much easier and cheaper it was to do presents when our kids were, well, kids. $100 would buy enough toys to make the living room look like FAO Schwartz. Nowadays, they presents they want cost $100 each, and all you get is a 4"x7" rectangle under the tree. Not as impressive.

    But we'll be following Santa's flight on NORAD tonight after church, and I'm betting that jolly old soul will have some fun gifts for the children's stockings...

  9. This piece never get old, does it? And thank you, Julia, for these delightful family photos. You have the dearest family!

    Happy Christmas Eve, everyone!

  10. "What a great kid" said my youngest."Please don't ever publish my childhood photos." NORAD Santa laughing all the way.

  11. Please add my name to the comments by Joan and Edith - you Jungle Reds have a special place in my heart... Thelma Straw in manhattan

  12. I've always loved that letter. Thanks, Julia, for sharing the letter and for sharing your own Virginia.

    Wishing all of you many blessings!