Friday, December 19, 2008

Is there a Santa Claus? (part 1)


Note: Stay tuned for “Is there a Santa Claus? (part 2)” on Monday- I am going to hand the camera to my daughter this weekend and ask her to wander through the house taking random shots of the Santa’s in the house!  Care to share some Santa photos? If so, add a comment to this post and I will make a list of participants to include with my post on Monday.

I have always loved this article, so I decided to share it with you all:

From the Editorial Page, New York Sun, 1897: Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus


From The People's Almanac, pp. 1358-9:

Francis P. Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" was an immediate sensation, and became one of the most famous editorials ever written. It first appeared in the The New York Sun in 1897, almost a hundred years ago, and was reprinted annually until 1949 when the paper went out of business.

Thirty-six years after her letter was printed, Virginia O'Hanlon recalled the events that prompted her letter:

"Quite naturally I believed in Santa Claus, for he had never disappointed me. But 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 Sun. Father would always say, 'If you see it in the The Sun, it's so,' and that settled the matter.

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

"He said, 'Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure The Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does.' "

And so Virginia sat down and wrote her parents' favorite newspaper.

Her letter found its way into the hands of a veteran editor, Francis P. Church. Son of a Baptist minister, Church had covered the Civil War for The New York Times and had worked on the The New York Sun for 20 years, more recently as an anonymous editorial writer. Church, a sardonic man, had for his personal motto, "Endeavour to clear your mind of cant." When controversial subjects had to be tackled on the editorial page, especially those dealing with theology, the assignments were usually given to Church.

Now, he had in his hands a little girl's letter on a most controversial matter, and he was burdened with the responsibility of answering it.

"Is there a Santa Claus?" the childish scrawl in the letter asked. At once, Church knew that there was no avoiding the question. He must answer, and he must answer truthfully. And so he turned to his desk, and he began his reply which was to become one of the most memorable editorials in newspaper history.

Church married shortly after the editorial appeared. He died in April, 1906, leaving no children.

Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate from Hunter College with a Bachelor of Arts degree at age 21. The following year she received her Master's from Columbia, and in 1912 she began teaching in the New York City school system, later becoming a principal. After 47 years, she retired as an educator. Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial. Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died on May 13, 1971, at the age of 81, in a nursing home in Valatie, N.Y.


Technorati Tags:


  1. That's such a tender story, it made me all teary-eyed.
    Happy shopping--and please let me know how your tea party turns out.

  2. Good morning Susan...I can't wait to see the photos your daughter will take & you're posting on you know, I've already posted about "most" of my Santas but I'll loving seeing everyone else's... ;-) Bo

  3. I have one "Santa" that is so very special to me. Its a ceramic Santa bank and its over 50 years old... Seeing how I got it for a present from my Grandmother when I was born. I would like to post him.

  4. Thank you for stopping in by my blog. Your home and decorations look lovely. Have a wonderful Christmas!

  5. Hi Susan,

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and enjoying all of the snowy holiday photos. I bet you wish you were here. That southern Georgia warm weather sure beats 12 degrees.

    I so enjoyed your Santa blog story.

    Have a wonderful holiday season.

    xo Cathy

  6. Hi Susan, this was so touching. Let us know how your shopping and tea party turn out.. hugs ~lynne~

  7. Hi Susan,
    Thank you so much for leaving such a sweet comment about my mishap with my little squirrel friend! I appreciate your kindness.

    What a great idea you have about sharing our Santas! I only have a few but I will try to see if I can get some good "poses" from them to include in my monday's post. I will link it back to your wonderful post too! Thanks for inviting us to play!
    Blessings to you,

  8. Hi, Susan.

    Great minds think alike. Lol.

    What a nice blog you have and you got so much done in such a short amount of time.

    I have Santa pictures posted on my Christmas blog --

  9. I'm slow in getting around! I loved the colors of Christmas in your bedroom - so yummy!! Copper, bronze, burgundy - they gave me goosebumps!! Merry Christmas. Sally

  10. I've always loved that editorial, but you told me some interesting facts I hadn't heard before. I thought you were already in my blog list, but I've missed some postings, so it may have been one of those times I added your blog and then forgot to hit "save". I'll be doing that immediately! I just scrolled through your last few postings, and your Christmas decor is beautiful! I loved it all. laurie


Thank you for stopping by my blog and taking the time to comment! I enjoy reading all your thoughts and will try to answer any questions you might have for me. Have a wonderful day....hope to "see"you again soon!