Friday, December 24, 2010

Yes Virginia!

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 W.95th St

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 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.

Francis P. Church
The New York Sun

There's the famous letter and response. It speaks to the hope that seems to spring up during this season each year. As for the letter let me tell a personal story.

My eldest daughter's name is Virginia. While I was back in college I took her, still at a very tender age, with me to attend a lecture given by The Amazing Randi. Randi is an infamous debunker, a man I much admire for calling out "paranormal" frauds from all corners. During his presentation, he might have gone a step too far for my personal tastes, or perhaps I made a poor choice to bring my beautiful girl. He announced to one and all that "No Virginia, there is NO Santa Claus".

I immediately snapped my head to my daughter, who was likewise looking up at me, her innocent eyes framed by her soft red hair filled with concern. So did many of the folks around us who knew her name. Luckily a bit of tomfoolery on my part, and others, healed the breach for the short time needed over the next few years. But it must have been a shock to a small child for a man who looked not unlike Saint Nick himself to suddenly and blatantly announce the death of the good old elf.

Most of the year I don't believe in Santa Clause myself, it's utter claptrap of course. But for a few days each year around this time, I give in to my irrational soul and believe. So should you. Have a Merry Christmas, and be careful around debunkers this time of year. They're out there.

Rip Off


  1. Tut tut, my good fellow. Mr. Church was quite mistaken in his famous editorial, and Mr. Randi was absolutely right. The fact that you brought your daughter along to a talk by James Randi in the first place is a good thing, not a bad thing.

    What's the worst that could have happened -- that she heard some myth or superstition challenged and that she would have to decide for herself whether the strange bearded man was telling the truth or not? But in return, she learned that it's okay to challenge ideas, to think about them, and that people who won't even let you talk about or question ideas might be trying to put one over on you. Frankly, it seems like there's far too much of that "don't question, just follow orders" attitude in the world today as it is.

    I say good for Mr. Randi, and good for Virginia having a swell dad like you! That's worth more to a child than a hundred nonexistent Santas!

  2. Thanks for the kind words.

    And I much admire Randi for the way he puts the barb to so much modern hogwash.

    But as for debunking, I think it requires a bit of seasoning to go down as it ought. But truth is a tonic that needs taking for sure.

    Rip Off


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