In 1897, Virginia O’Hanlon wrote the paper to ask if Santa Claus really existed after some of her friends doubted the fact, saying that she was asking the newspaper because her father said, “If you see it in the Sun, it’s so.”
The editorial reply from Francis Church on September 21, 1897 included the famous line: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist…”
Church also wrote, “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.”
Yes Virginia is a charming tale with appealing street scenes of late 19th century New York. Of course, several additional plot elements were required to pad the 25 minutes before Virginia’s letter is answered, so expect a mean girl, a scraggly bell ringer, and a curious little boy. One of my favorite added elements was a visit to the library where the children learn about Santa’s different incarnations around the world, from England’s Father Christmas to a goat-riding Santa figure in Scandinavia.
The real Virginia O’Hanlon grew up to become a school teacher and principal, earning both a master’s degree and a doctorate, no small achievement for a woman in the early 1900s. Perhaps being imbued with a powerful sense of belief at an early age helped shape her career.
Film Friday: Do you give Yes,
Virginia your stamp of approval?
Virginia and Her Letter to the Editor
Virginia Now a Balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade
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