Many years ago, I worked as an archivist for the Newspaper Association of America. Basically, it’s the national association for all newspaper publishers/owners. One of the great things about working at NAA’s library was the fabulous special collection of original newspapers and other documents that dated back to the 18th century and were once personally owned by publishers like Joseph Pulitzer.

But this time a year, our reference desk was inundated with information about one of the most famous editorial letters ever written–the response to an eight year old girl’s question about whether or not Santa Claus exists. Our special collection had one the last remaining original copies of this letter which ran in the New York’s Sun newspaper, and every year we sent out copies to whoever requested one.

The letter, reprinted below (it’s now in the public domain), was published on September 21, 1897 by veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church and has become the most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time. It has been translated into dozens of languages, has appeared in books, movies, posters and even stamps.

This sweet-yet-profound letter has transformed even the most Scrooge-like hearts and never fails to make me smile. I hope you all enjoy it!


{Letter from Francis Pharcellus Church to Virigina O’Hanlon in New York’s Sun newspaper on September 21, 1897 currently in the public domain.}

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 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 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.


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