Is There a Santa Claus? Yes, Virginia.


by Clement C. Moore, c. 1870. Image via wikimedia commons.

by Clement C. Moore, c. 1870. Image via wikimedia commons.

In 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked the question that makes all parents of young children squirm: “Is there a Santa Claus?” Her father, in a brilliant example of strategic parental deflection, suggested she write to The New York Sun for her answer.

Here is her hand-written letter:

Image via wikimedia commons.

Image via wikimedia commons.

The editorial response: “Is there a Santa Claus?” was originally published in The Sun on September 21, 1897. Since then, it has become an American classic, reprinted whole or in part more often than any other newspaper editorial in the English language. The phrase “Yes, Virginia” has become part of our lexicon.

SocialIn Yes,Virginia,ThereIsASantaClausClipping

Although it was unsigned at the time, the writer was later identified as Francis Pharcellus Church. And that’s where the story takes on an additional dimension.

Image via wikimedia commons.

Image via wikimedia commons.

Looks very serious, doesn’t he? He should; he was a war correspondent during the Civil War, the deadliest conflict in our nation’s history. How easy it would have been for such a man, under these circumstances, to come away with a bitter heart, a black view of humanity, and of God. We can only imagine the devastation he saw and reported on during that time.

And yet, this is the man who touchingly answered a little girl, and encouraged her belief:

“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.”

And this is the man who also wrote:

“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.”

Such things “real and abiding” are sorely needed in our world today and maybe, in this season of good will, we can allow ourselves to believe in them. Mr. Church thought we could.


K profile2012K.B. Owen is a former academic and cozy mystery author. Her Concordia Wells mysteries, set in 1890s Hartford, feature murder and mayhem at a fictitious women’s college. The second mystery in the series, Unseemly Pursuits, has just been released for Kindle, Nook, and paperback.

Where to find K.B.:

Twitter: @kbowenwriter


Website: K.B. Owen Mysteries

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