Sunday, December 24, 2023

Yes, Virginia

 It's been a very long 4 days with no power, and another ridiculously busy 2 days trying to jam in a week's worth of Christmas preparation. So for today, I want to rerun my very favorite piece of Christmas Eve writing; one that's held a special place in my heart for 23 years now

 

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

62 comments:

  1. This piece is both timeless and treasured . . . and true. Thank you, Julia, for reminding us of the truly special spirit of Christmas that touches all of us. [And thank you for sharing your sweet Virginia.] May the magic and joy of Christmas continue to fill all our lives . . . .

    Merry Christmas Eve . . . .

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    1. I'm always happy to share my very own Virginia, Joan!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this, Julia. It's been a while since I've read it.

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  3. Thank you, Julia. Those words are lovely and true. I love all the pictures, too. So glad you got your power back in time!

    Merry Christmas Eve to all.

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  4. Lovely! Best wishes for a beautiful Christmas and holiday season.⭐

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  5. JULIA: Thanks for sharing this lovely piece. All Virginias need to believe in Santa!

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  6. AUTHORS: Here's a funny cartoon that is apropos to Friday's post wish #5
    https://scontent-bos5-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.30808-6/413803777_10220801601188721_7572434608345531076_n.jpg?stp=dst-jpg_p843x403&_nc_cat=107&ccb=1-7&_nc_sid=c42490&_nc_ohc=bukRgtpx1ZQAX_9mccX&_nc_ht=scontent-bos5-1.xx&oh=00_AfB9Q2cLR313aKm4AcehjAQwFAnnpev6ZCzldjlT3W7uOA&oe=658CB900

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  7. If one picture is equal a thousand words, the 6,000 words in the pictures say everything about the joy of Christmas… wishing all of you, the “best Christmas ever”, because it is the Christmas we have. Elisabeth

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    1. That's a wonderful thought to take into the future with me, Elisabeth. The best Christmas is the one we have right here and now.

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  8. Thanks for this, Julia. I have never seen the whole essay; it's lovely. And the photos that illustrate it are more lovely. So glad your power returned!

    Happy Christmas Eve, everyone. Let us all believe in fairies, in Santa...and in the power of heartfelt imagination at all times.

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  9. Merry Christmas! Happiest, healthiest year ahead. May Santa fill your stockings with LOVE and you hearts with JOY!

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  10. Thank you for this, Julia.
    And of course there is a Santa Claus. I saw him with my own eyes when I was four. I saw the snowy tracks he made across my grandmother’s new carpet and heard him Ho Ho Ho-ing. I hope everyone here got a glimpse of him before they reached that troublesome age of reason
    Merry Christmas to you all and much love from me. Xo

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    1. Much love and many good wishes, Ann. Glimpses of Santa are always treasured long past that “age of reason”. Elisabeth

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    2. Santa used to leave sooty tracks from our fireplace to the chairs where the stockings were laid out, Ann, and I used to loudly complain to our kids that the jolly old elf was making more work for me!

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  11. that's lovely Julia! So sorry about the power...happy Christmas Eve to all of you, our treasured Reds!

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    1. I'm so grateful to all the hard working power crews of CMP, Lucy!

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  12. As I told my children when they had stopped believing, there is a Santa, but shes really a woman.

    Thank you, Julia, for sharing this lovely and timeless essay. I think the first time i read it was in the mid-1960's, in my mother's magazine, either McCall's or Redbook.

    Wishing a warm--in both senses--and love-filled Christmas to all. The love of family, of friends, and of our shared pleasure in reading.

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  13. So glad you have power returned, and now get to scurry about doing all those preparations.
    I called my daughter to tell her we would not be coming for Christmas, and she said that the husband had been sick for 3 days, but she was fine (as she was sitting there all congested). The next morning, she wrote that she had been up all night because the boychild whose birthday is today had a fever, and she had to postpone the incoming relatives, and wrap presents, and peel vegetables, and she was so tired. To which, I replied, that is the magic of Christmas – suck it up, because too soon it will be gone. (She probably cried then, but I could not see her through e-mail.)
    She also remarked that the girlchild who is 6 (!) was beginning to question the validity of the person in red. As I was reading this essay (once again), I was thinking that this letter should become one of those fireside readings on Christmas Eve. We all need just a bit of a reminder of what is the magic of Christmas and childhood, and to hold it in our hearts.
    May you all have a day of memories and magic.

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    1. Oh, Margo, so much beauty and crap, exhaustion and exhilaration intertwined in those years. They do fly all too swiftly.

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  14. I believe! Merry Christmas to all. 🎄

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  15. Thank you, Julia! A Happy Christmas to all. May the power stay on! Suzette Ciancio

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    1. I had a moment of panic when the internet went out last night, Suzette, but I had just stepped on the power strip control when removing my computer charger. Phew!

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  16. Francis P. Church - what a wise man. Truly.

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  17. Thank you, Julia! That essay never gets old! Loved seeing your family pictures! Merry Christmas to all!

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  18. Oh memory! Our youngest was born twelve days before Christmas. A chaotic and memorable time.

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    1. Oh, my goodness, Margaret! Chaotic and memorable sounds about right!

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  19. No power! Yikes! I remember the power outage mentioned in yesterday's post but didn't realize the length. A few years back, the church's furnace went out a week before Christmas. We draped the pews with blankets for the last Sunday of Advent. Like you, the heat was back on with only a couple days to spare before Christmas.

    Thank you for sharing Virginia's inquiry and the editor's response. I got a gift every year from Santa into my fifties. Oh, I know the writing on the tag was just like Mom's. She helped him with the tags because writing on those little tags with gloves on can be very difficult, don't you know?

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    1. Of course, Deana! And my kids continue to hang up their stockings now they're in their twenties and thirties. Santa always comes through.

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  20. Grand-nephew is eight and still believes. Thanks, Julia, for sharing the essay and photos of your very own Virginia! Lovely! A blessed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day to all here on JRW!

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  21. Hi Julia, your daughter Virginia (in the pics) has a cute little smile. Does she still have it?

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    1. It's even cuter after $10K of corrective surgery and orthodontia, Anon! :-D

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  22. Everyone needs this timely reminder.

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    1. Always time to let magic into your life, Pat!

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  23. Diana here: wonderful story, Julia. I love this story. I remember the movie with Richard Thomas based on the Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus editorial in the newspaper. And thank you for sharing the photos of your own Virginia. Is she also Maine Minneal on social media?

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  24. Julia, thank you for sharing this with us on Christmas Eve. I believe in Santa! (Even after recognizing my mom’s handwriting on the tag for my new bike!)
    I hope your power stays on and that nothing suffered too badly because of the outage. How lucky to have good friends such as Celia and Victor!
    I wish all of the Reds and Readers a magical Christmas (even if you don’t celebrate, we can all use some magic in our lives, right?) and a healthy, happy, peaceful and joyful 2024. — Pat S

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    1. Thank you, Pat, and the same to you!

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    2. PAT S: I also recognized my mom's handwriting on the thank you card from "Santa" left beside the milk & cookies. After that year, I no longer had to leave treats for Santa on Christmas Eve and I still got new presents.

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  25. Diana, the Maine millennial is my oldest, Victoria. Yes, I do recall that movie - I loved Richard Thomas.

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  26. This letter is just the best. Francis Church was so wise and wonderful to reply to Virginia's inquiry like this. I think it's interesting and sweet that kids don't always let their parents know when they quit believing in Santa because they know their parents enjoy it. Oh, and the pictures were great, too, Julia. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.

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  27. I love this essay, Julia, but most of all I love the photos! Christmas condensed!! A happy Christmas to you and to the grown-up Virginia--and to the Maine Millennial and the Sailor!

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  28. Happy Christmas to all! And so glad you have been "empowered!"

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  29. Delightful, Julia. Thank you so much for sharing. Happy Christmas to all the Virginias :)

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  30. How lovely that this is the first thing I've read as Christmas arrives on the West Coast. Thank you for sharing both the essay and the photos. Merry Christmas, all!

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