Archive for the ‘Francis Church’ Category

Christmas Day Thought: “Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus”—Virginia complained in 1897

December 24, 2008

Prodded by her father to write Francis Pharcellus Church, the editor of the New York Sun to ask about the hard question about Santa Claus, Virginia O’ Hanlon of New York City got the following response from the newspaperman more than a hundred years ago:

“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.”—Francis P. Church

Dear Editor,

I am eight 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

The Editor’s Reply to Virginia About the Truth of Santa Claus

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS!

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 external 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 supernatural 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.”—-Source: http://www.allthingschristmas.com ( Photo Credits: David Wilcot; Reuters/ Prath Sanyal; http://www.peteyandpetunia.com; Rev_Bri; Tanya Mass; Stich)

RELATED BLOG: “Yes Virginia, there is Santa Claus!”—remembering Francis Church and the little child in Virginia O’Hanlon Posted by mesiamd at 12/25/2008

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“Yes Virginia, there is Santa Claus!”—remembering Francis Church and the little child in Virginia O’Hanlon

December 24, 2008

For me, one of the best written lores about Christmas was the editorial written by Francis Pharcellus Church, which came out on September 21, 1897 edition of the New York Sun for the little 8-year old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon (1889-1971.)

A mature seasoned reporter and son of a Baptist minister who wrote for newspapers during the Civil War, Francis saw how people suffered because of the dearth of optimism and the usualness of alienation in society. The question he received from Virginia about Santa Claus by mail and his well-thought reply hugged the imagination of those who read them.

“Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O’Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter: “Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn’t any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.”
http://www.nationalchristmascenter.com/exhibits/htm/yesvirginia.htm

Born in Manhattan, Virginia was the daughter of an Upper Eastside assistant coroner. Her complete name was Laura Virginia O’Hanlon and she lived a life of the regular kid of her time at 115 West, 95th Street. She grew up to be an accomplished teacher with a BA (1910) and MA (1912) education from Hunter College and Columbia University respectively.

During her life, countless letters found their way in her mailbox asking about Santa Claus and her unexpected fame. To eager fans, she recounted how her story influenced her life in a wholesome way. Having briefly married with one child, she in old age lived in a nursing home after her retirement from decades of teaching. She passed away on May 17, 1971 at the age of 81 and was interred in a quiet rural burial ground in Chatham, New York. The newspaper New York Sun folded up in 1949. The original letter she sent the newspaper was pasted in a scrapbook which her relatives keep till this day.

I had some emotional reaction banging on my chest each time I read the immortal correspondence of Francis and Virginia. I had memories of how I regarded Christmas as a boy. The idea that the world would be so dreary if there was no Santa Claus because of skepticism made me panicky. The stockings I placed behind the yuletide tree at home for Santa was so real. There was the off-tune Christmas carol about Santa that I sang for our next-door neighbor. It earned me less than a dime, but nonetheless made me very happy. Attendance to the pre-Christmas midnight mass and watching the nativity scene were as gratifying as the long waits I did for the dawn break-ins of the mysterious bearded man with gifts for children from a magical sleigh.

Time was benevolent on Virginia. It transformed her 64 million dollar query and Francis’ answer into a masterpiece, perhaps the most endearing Christmas editorial ever written in America.

From her moving story came the beloved quip “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” All children of the world must have asked their fathers and mothers like Virginia before their fleeting periods of innocence pass by. More than a hundred years went and the whole world still struggles with cynicism, self-doubt, and materialism. People continue to dig what true Christmas really means for all of us. (Photo Credit: Andy_Atsaka; wwww.peteyandpetunia.com; http://www.nationalchristmascenter.com; Karen Navarro/ AP; Andy_Atsaka; Manuel Silvestre/ AP ; Scott Feldstein) =0=

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