Since nothing’s what it appears to be anymore, that journalistic integrity is barely a blip on the radar anyhow, and that sacred cows are tossed on the barbecue nowadays, here’s a contemporary twist on that “Yes, Virginia” editorial.

“Is there a Santa Claus?” was the title of that editorial appearing in the September 21, 1897 edition of a New York newspaper called “The Sun.” The editorial, which included the famous reply, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” has become an indelible part of popular Christmas folklore.

That Fall, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon was asked by his then eight-year-old daughter, Virginia, if Santa Claus really existed.  She began to doubt he did because her friends had told her he didn’t exist.  Philip suggested she write “The Sun,” assuring her, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”  While he may have been trying to pass the buck, the good Doctor unwittingly gave Francis Pharcellus Church, one of the paper’s editors, an opportunity.  (For more than a century the piece remains the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language)

A Contemporary version of Virginia’s note to the editor might have said:

Dear Editor.  I am eight years old.  Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it may or may not be so,” but I thought I would ask anyway.  Please tell me; is there a Santa Claus?  Virginia O’Hanlon – 115 West 95th Street.

In reply to Virginia’s question, Francis Church may have, these days, wrote:

Virginia, your little friends could be right or then again wrong.  They have no doubt been enlightened.  They do not believe, but that’s OK.  Some people think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their thoughts.  All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are their own.  In this great universe of ours, man is not just some mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by an intellectual’s capability of grasping knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He goes by many names like Big Brother or Uncle Sam as well.  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 every month.  Alas, how dreary would many an American be if there were no Santa Claus.  They would be as dreary as if there were no Virginia.  There would be no welfare checks, no free cell phones, no food stamps to make tolerable their existence.  They would have nothing, except sight, sense or pride.  The eternal light with which childlike dependence fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus!  You might as well believe in freedom!  You might get your papa to hire men to watch the mailboxes each month for those checks, but even if they did not see Santa Claus, 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 children and men can see.  Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?  Of course not, so that’s proof they are not there.  Only the foolish can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen in the world.

You can tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there are fools who believe in an unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, can prove.  Faith, fancy, poetry, love, and romance may be a fallacy, but a supernal beauty and glory lay beyond in a place called Washington, DC.  Is it all real?  Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else more real and abiding.

No Santa Claus!  Thank God! (Added disclaimer) He lives and resides in the White House.  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, four years more, he will continue to make glad the hearts of a majority.

Greg Allen’s column, Thinkin’ Out Loud, was published bi-monthly from 2009 to 2017.  He’s an author, a former nationally syndicated columnist and the founder of Builder of the Spirit Ministries in Jamestown, Indiana.  He can be reached at

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