What if anything to tell children about Santa Claus is much debated. Some believe the St. Nick tradition is a part of Christmas that must never die. Others believe it infringes on the religious nature of the observance.
We won’t attempt to advise on the right or wrong of either position, nor the wisdom of those with beliefs and practices somewhere between.
We will say the spirit of generosity Santa Claus embodies is not a bad thing for our world. And that is the message from one of the most famous pieces ever written on the question of Santa’s existence.
“Is There a Santa Claus?” first appeared in The New York Sun, Sept. 21, 1897. It was written by Francis Pharcellus Church, an assistant to the editor of The Sun. Every year at this time, it’s worth rereading.
We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun.
I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
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Papa says ’If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
115 West 95th 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, and 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 child-like 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 not 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, not even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, 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 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!