Is there really a Santa Claus?

The internet is like a treasure trove of information. Forget that recipe for gingerbread cookies? What about the best way to clean red wine off your beige carpet? How about the population of the United States back in the early 1850’s? Or even, is there really a Santa Claus?

In a matter of minutes, you’ll have answers to all your questions and still have plenty of time to check your local weather. But we all know there’s a dark side to the internet, even though some recently polled college students proclaimed it was “as important as eating and breathing.” Some examples would include cyber bullying, child pornography and Santa Claus.

If that last one has thrown you, let me clarify.

Many young children today are more computer savvy than some adults – using their mouse to navigate the world wide web at lightning speeds. But just as adults use search engines to answer our most pressing questions, so are our children.

It appears that children, some as young as 5 years old, are searching online to find out if Santa Claus is real or not. And while you’ll get a host of sites proclaiming his existence, there’s dozens more trying to abolish the belief of a man which has brought hope and magic to hundreds of millions of children all over the world.

Maybe we’re allowing our children to get a little too smart for their own good these days. We’re erasing the age of believing in something  you can’t always see and make sense of.

Perhaps it’s time to be reminded of a letter written many years ago by eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon to the New York Sun. The response on September 21, 1897, by veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church, has become one of history’s most reprinted newspaper editorials and I can understand why. Re-reading the piece warmed my heart at the start of this holiday season. Maybe it’ll do the same for yours.

“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”

This was his full response:

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.