When eight-year-old daughter, Virginia O'Hanlon asked her father in 1897 whether Santa Claus really existed, he suggested she write the editor of the New York City prominent newspaper, called The Sun. He said "If you see it in The Sun, it's so."
Editor Francis Pharcellus Church's response was so thoughtful and inspiring that more than a century later this is the most reprinted editorial in an English Language newspaper.
"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?"
115 West Ninety Fifth Street
"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 external 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.
"Is There a Santa Claus?" reprinted from the September 21, 1897, number of The New York Sun.
Brian Finley and Westben Teen Chorus Graduate Mackenzie Cameron have crafted a script which highlights Virginia's letter and the editorial and other Christmas letters. Actor and radio personality Linda Kash, (fondly known as the cream cheese angel) and who now lives in Peterborough, will be the narrator for the concert and I am sure will bring these letters to life. Drawing upon Linda's specialty of improvisation, there may be a few "improv" moments as well. The Westben Festival, B Natural, Teen and Youth Choruses will be performing seasonal music intertwining the letters. The wind tells me there may even be another special guest so listen to "up on the roof top..." The Barn performances (November 29 at 1 pm and November 30 at 3 pm) have become a tradition for many families to get into the mood of the season. Remember to dress warmly and bring a blanket, as The Barn is not heated. Westben volunteers will warm you up though with smiles and a cup of hot apple cider and homemade cookies. Other performances are in Norwood (December 6 at 3 pm) and Peterborough St Andrew's United (December 7 at 3 pm). But first join us at The Clock Tower Saturday, November 22, 7 pm for a Pre CD House Concert with myself, Brian and Ken Tizzard with performances and conversation about our upcoming CD's."
Hope to see you at Westben's "Yes, Virginia!" concert and in the word of editor Francis Pharcellus Church " continue to make glad the heart of childhood."