How to both lie and tell the truth about Santa Claus
In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia wrote a letter to the The New York Sun newspaper. It was answered in a column by Francis P. Church. One hundred years later, it is still the most reprinted editorial in the English language.
Said a story in The New York Times on the 100-year anniversary of the original:
Viewed critically, Mr. Church's magnum opus is a sentimental mix of tautology, syllogism and fantasy...
But it is precisely because ''Yes, Virginia'' does not bear close scrutiny that it is a true sleight of rhetorical hand -- and, therefore, magical. ''What this child is doing is knocking on the door of the adult world and asking to be let in,'' said Howell Raines, editor of the editorial page of The New York Times. ''And what this editor is doing is protecting her -- and his adult readers.''
William David Sloan, a journalism professor at the University of Arkansas, once put it this way in The Masthead, the journal of the National Conference of Editorial Writers: ''Had he denied Santa Claus, he might have torn down the fanciful world of many youngsters and tampered with the values and traditions many people consider important. Had he affirmed Santa Claus matter-of-factly, he would have contributed no ideas of lasting significance. What Church did was sustain a child's hope while giving her a statement of ideals that are worthwhile for the adult. He did not simply continue a myth. He gave a reason for believing.''
Santa Claus Wigs, Beards, Etc.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus
Dear Editor—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.
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?
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.
- Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Newseum>>
- Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, Wikipedia>>
- Vintage Santa ads and illustrations, (found digital texts & images, material scans, & occasional snapshots) Abaculi>>