In perhaps one of the greatest examples of parental avoidance, when, in 1897, eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon asked her father if there really was a Santa Claus, he suggested she write to The New York Sun for clarification.
“If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,” he told her.
Fortunately for posterity, Virginia’s letter landed in the hands of Francis Pharcellus Church, a war correspondent during the Civil War. In his response, Church treats Santa more as concept than figure. What is most valuable, he suggests, lies not in the contents of boxes and bags but in intangibles and mysteries, enduring questions for which easy answers prove elusive. What remain and sustain are the capacities for curiosity and faith, hope and love.
In elevating the question to the realm of the philosophical, Church provided an answer for the ages. His piece subsequently became the most reprinted editorial in the English language.
Who are we to argue with history? Here again are the original letter and response: Continue reading “The Most Reprinted Editorial: “Is There a Santa Claus?””