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Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa.

Her whole name was Mrs. Laura Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas. She earned a master's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from Fordham, and she had a long and distinguished career as a teacher and administrator in the New York City school system, but to millions of people she will always be the little girl who wrote a letter asking about Santa Claus.

"I was only a child, and my parents did everything for me that any parents could do," Mrs. Douglas told an audience of college students some 40 years later"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But like you, I turned to those of my own generation, and so when less fortunate little boys and girls said there wasn't any Santa Claus, I was filled with doubts. I asked my father, and he was a little evasive on the subject.

"It was a habit in our family that whenever any doubts came up as to how to pronounce a word, or some question of historical fact was in doubt, we wrote to the 'Question and Answer' column in The New York Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.

"'Well, I'm just going to write to the Sun and find out the real truth,' I said to father."

The editorial was written by Francis Pharcellus Church, a Civil War correspondent for the New York Times before he joined the Sun as a writer specializing in theological and controversial subjects.

Mr. Church died in 1906.

The New York Sun died in 1950.

Mrs. Douglas died May 13, 1971, at the age of 81.

But little Virginia, her letter and the answer she received will live forever in America's heart.

Dear Editor I am 8 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

Virginia, 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 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.

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.
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Title Annotation:Virginia O'Hanlon's 1897 letter to the New York Sun newspaper
Author:Church, Francis P.
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Dec 1, 1988
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