In the fall of 1897, Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of the New York Sun, wrote a response to Virginia O’Hanlon, an eight-year-old girl who wanted to know if there was a Santa Claus. As Miss O’Hanlan wrote, “Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN, it’s so.’ Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” The following was Church’s reply:
“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical 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 they 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 may 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, fancy, 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 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.”
One hundred and sixteen years later and we find people are still affected by scepticism and living in a sceptical age. But we take comfort that at this time of year, the milk of human kindness is not operating past its expiration date. Rather, it is ready to be poured in abundance like the glass that always awaits Santa Claus on his annual journey down the chimney.
As we bring our final edition for 2013 to you, all that remains is to wish each and every one of you, reader, advertiser, and newsmaker, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Please Note: The Morinville News will be closed from Dec. 19 to Jan. 6 inclusive for our annual holidays. Our next print edition after Dec. 18 will be Jan. 8, our annual Year in Review edition.