To Make Glad the Heart of Childhood
September, 1897
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
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street

                                                               

Virginia, your little friends are wrong.  They have been affected by the skepticism of a
skeptical age.  They do not believe except [what] 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 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 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 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, nay, ten
times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of
childhood.
The response to Virginia O'Hanlon's letter was printed as an unsigned editorial in the
New York Sun on September 21, 1897.  Since that time, Francis Pharcellus Church's work
has become the world's most reprinted newspaper editorial.

Mr. Church had covered the Civil War for the
New York Times and had worked at the
New York Sun for twenty years.  A sardonic man, known for his wit and unflinching
perseverance, Church was usually the person presented with the task of dealing with
controversial subjects.

When he read Virginia's letter, he knew at once that he must not avoid the task of
answering it, and answering truthfully.  He sat down at his desk and wrote one of the
most famous editorials ever printed.

Mr. Church married shortly after the editorial appeared.  He died in 1906, leaving no
children.

Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas graduated from Hunter College in 1910 and received a Master's
Degree from Columbia University the next year.  She worked in the New York school
system for forty-seven years, first as a teacher, later as a principal.  She died in 1971 at
the age of eighty-one.

She continued to receive mail about her Santa Claus letter throughout her life.  She
answered every inquiry and, with her reply, enclosed a copy of Mr. Church's editorial.
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