Sunday, September 21, 2008

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Yesterday was 111th anniversary of an editorial published in The New York Sun. The author was Francis Pharcellus Church. See the article on Wikipedia for the complete history of Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Most people don't know what Frances Pharcellus Church actually wrote so here it is ...

Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except 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 you 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, 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 lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


  1. It's been years since I read that. The last time I did, I was a believing Christian who found it inspiring. Now, as a nonbeliever, I find it insipid. Replace the words "Santa Claus" with God, YHWY, Allah or whatever, and one has the perfect recipe for religious thinking. Blech!

  2. I don't think I'd ever read the whole thing. I didn't even know who wrote it. It just encourages woolly thinking, doesn't it?

    The line, "You might as well not believe in fairies." reminds me of all the silly things people have believed - the fairies, the elves who steal children, changling children, horseshoes over the door, milk on the doorstep.. It's one thing to believe like a child, but another to believe in childish things.

  3. I got in trouble when I was seven for explaining the amalgamated myth of 'Santa' to a two year old who then went off on a crying/tantrum spree. I don't think I got off of punishment for two weeks.

    So sad that such silly beliefs are instilled at such an early age.

  4. I don't know; there's portions of it I like.

    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!

    This part, perhaps the part I've read most often seems to speak to the idea of Santa Claus as some paragon of generosity that makes the world richer. I don't think that there's anything wrong with a symbol, so long as we remember it is a symbol and not a real thing. It gives people ideals to strive for.

    I'm an atheist, but I love the winter solstice/Krismas season.

  5. I much prefer Susan De'ath's version (as reported by PTerry in Hogfather):
    Wherever people are obtuse and absurd ... and wherever they have, by even the most generous standards, the attention span of a small chicken in a hurricane and the investigative ability of a one-legged cockroach ... and when people are inanely credulous, thematically attached to the certainties of the nursery and, in general, have as much grasp of the realities of the physical universe as an oyster has of mountaineering ... yes, Twyla: there is a Hogfather.