Every year since I got access to any sort of social media, it’s been my tradition to revisit my favorite editorial of all time.
“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?
“115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.”
VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] 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, an 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 childlike 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 no 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 may 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, nor 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.
I almost forgot to post this this year. In fact, I almost forgot that Christmas was this Sunday. It’s not that I dislike the holiday. Quite the opposite, it’s my favorite time all year. But life has been busy, money has been tight, and there has been little reason to pay attention. I can’t afford to shop for presents, I haven’t had the time to watch my holiday films, just keeping up with the world has prevented me from listening to holiday music, and so many of the tiny traditions that made this a wonderful time simply didn’t happen. After Thanksgiving, the joy that would sustain me through New Years just didn’t kick in, and I feel I may have wasted much of my time.
But this. This letter and its response. This takes a lifetime of feeling and fits it neatly in a few paragraphs.
This has been a strange year also because of my embrace of skepticism. Much of what is written in this piece I think misses the point in the same way that I think anybody who considers the natural world dull and lifeless misses the point. However, even with this new perspective, I cannot help but agree with the piece.
Santa Claus is the symbol of all that is the best in the human race. Cheerful, kind, compassionate, generous, and loving, Santa is what we should all aspire to though we may never reach the reindeer-level heights that the red suited man reaches with ease.
The idea of magic is difficult to address and yet a fundamental underpinning of the Santa Claus idea. However, I think it’s clear that in Church’s description of the man himself, that the magic is not a driver, but a by-product. It is from fancy and wonder that magic spring, the glorious ability to know, even without knowing. It is from love and generosity and devotion that we are derived our highest beauty and joy.
Santa Claus is the person in which this magic is made, the factory of dreams, who brings into this world the light by which we might see our way to the next year. He is the symbol by which we can fend off the foolish and greedy, the shibboleth of the tribe of goodness. He is the role model for people that pay off others’ layaway items, drop $1,600 on other peoples’ bills, or give away $10,000 anonymous checks with a bag of avocados. He is the role model for my upstairs neighbor who saved the live of a man who was in a motorcycle accident the other day, keeping him from choking on his own blood while others stood by an watched.
This year, despite giving up my belief in a lot of things, I don’t think I’m going to give up my belief in Santa Claus. Santa is a major part of the ideal to which I would have people, myself included, try to live up to and it is meaningless to abandon that ideal simply because it shares some traits with concepts I’ve come to reject for their rejection of love and generosity and devotion. I believe too strongly and have seen too many examples of those things in order to abandon them and their avatar during this season. I don’t believe in a lot, but I believe in Santa, and that makes me a better person than I would otherwise be.