Little Bits of History

Yes, Virginia

Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 27, 2010

Virginia O’Hanlon

September 21, 1897: The New York Sun publishes a letter from eight-year-old Virginia asking if there is really a Santa Claus. Dr. Philip O’Hanlon was a coroner’s assistant. He came home from work one day to find his daughter, Virginia, quite upset. Her friends at school had told her that there was no Santa Claus and she wanted her Papa to tell her the truth.

Dr. O’Hanlon, perhaps passing the buck, or perhaps with a then-normal absolute faith in journalism, told his daughter to write to the paper, saying if it was in The Sun, it had to be true. Virginia wrote in and was answered on the editorial page. It is the most reprinted editorial ever published. However, on this date, it was placed far down the page after the newly invented “chainless bicycle” was written up.

Francis Church wrote an answer. Francis and his brother, William, established the “Army and Navy Journal” in 1863 and “Galaxy” magazine in 1866. William owned a newspaper, The New York Sun, and Francis wrote for it. Francis had been a journalist during the Civil War and it was with that background in mind that he answered Virginia.

Knowing the hopelessness and suffering present in the world, especially during war time, Church wanted to show that the world was also a place of love, acceptance, good will, and joy. Taking a child’s plea and giving it an honest response, this is the message he printed, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” His position of hopefulness struck a chord in the hearts of the readers. His message remains the same for children today, celebrating the childlike faith, the poetry, and the romance that make life bearable.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” – Francis Church

“He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.” – Roy L. Smith

“Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.” – Mary Ellen Chase

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love!” – Hamilton Wright Mabie

Also on this day, in 1995 the Milk Miracle visits the Hindu God, Ganesha.