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'Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus'

January 07, 2013
Iconic answer to a little girl's question

In 1897, a little girl in New York City asked her father if there really was a Santa Claus. Her father, Dr. Philip O'Hanlon, suggested that she write a letter to the editor of the "Question & Answers" column at The Sun, the most popular newspaper of the day.

With that, little Virginia O'Hanlon sat down a penned a brief note to the newspaper that in turn, was promptly answered in a column written by veteran editor Francis P. Church.

His 415 word response, which included the affirmation "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus", was an immediate sensation and for the next 115 years and to this day, it remains one of the most famous and most reprinted editorials ever written.

Church's column was reprinted in The Sun every Christmas for 52 years until the newspaper went out of business in 1949. During that period, and in the years since, it has also appeared in part or whole in dozens of languages worldwide in repeat editorials and in countless books, movies and TV productions. The catch phrase "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus" has even appeared on postage stamps.

The little girl's letter that prompted the famous response simply read: "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. 115 W. 95th St.

The iconic response was immediate and to the point. The editorial began by stating: "We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below"... and after featuring the little girl's letter word-for-word, Francis Church answered her question straight and to the point.

He began: "Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age"... and in the lead line of the second paragraph he delivered the goods. "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!"

Wrapping up his famous response a few paragraphs later, he closed with "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."

As the trials and tribulations of modern day life continues to take its toll on the wide-eyed wonders and beliefs that we all once held as children, it is refreshing and fulfilling to return to a simpler place and time and for a moment to recall and revisit the inner child in us all.

This holiday season, let us one and all not forget the spirit of the iconic words and sentiment written 115 years ago by Francis P. Church. We too concur.

"Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

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