“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”…

December 13, 2023 by  
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The world-famous article shown below appeared in THE (New York) SUN on September 21, 1897. It is certainly one of the most challenging issues to collect as few are known to exist. It has been said this may very well be the most recognized editorial of all time. Found on page 6 and headed: “Is There a Santa Claus?”, this is the famous “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” editorial written by Francis Pharcellus Church, a sardonic Columbia College graduate & veteran Sun writer, he produced a masterpiece in fewer than 500 words.

Although the letter from Virginia and the famous response by Church have become well known (translated into 20 languages), few would know the prefacing paragraph which immediately precedes Virginia’s letter: “We take 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 among the friends of The Sun:…” and then Virginia’s letter and Church’s response.

The famous phrase “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…” begins the second paragraph, and the letter closes with: “…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.”

The press tracked Virginia until her retirement as a 70-year-old school teacher, while Church remained anonymous as the author until his death in 1906.

As for Church, he was a hardened cynic and an atheist who had little patience for superstitious beliefs, did not want to write the editorial, and refused to allow his name to be attached to the piece. More than a century later, it is the most reprinted editorial in any newspaper in the English language. This reality is a great reminder to all of us to always give our best effort, even when we don’t necessarily agree with those whom are in authority over us – moral conflicts accepted.

So, for a few brief moments let’s set aside the weight of “enlightenment” which is pressed upon us by virtue of adulthood and attempt to appreciate the sweet exchange between a “cynical” journalist and a curious, yet innocent, young girl. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to ALL!

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