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‘Yes, Virginia’ still captures magic

T

here is a timeless Christmas story that captures the magic of the season like no other, but you won’t find it on a bookshelf, the television or a mobile device.

This classic holiday tale was printed in a newspaper.

Without a doubt the best response to a reader that has ever been written, a 120-year-old newspaper column embodies the magic of the Christmas holiday and remains as poignant and powerful as the day it was written. For that reason, I have tried to share it every year in some format or another for more than two decades.

On Sept. 21, 1897, an 8-year-old girl named Virginia was losing her faith in the joys of Christmas and her childhood imagination was almost lost.

So, the child reached out to the New York Sun newspaper for guidance, prompting editor Francis P. Church to respond with the most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time, offering a beautiful answer that should make almost anyone feel young again.

This year, I am proud to start a new tradition at The Jessamine Journal and help keep the spirit of Christmas alive by sharing Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter and Church’s heartfelt response.

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Pap 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 95th 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 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 tear apart a baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which not 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 supernatural 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 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Merry Christmas, Jessamine County!

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Jessamine Journal and Jessamine Life magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6452 or by email at mike.caldwell@jessaminejournal.com.