Why I believe in Santa Claus
A Jesuit retreat master once said that the stages of the spiritual life can be likened to the stages of belief in Santa Claus:
Stage One: I believe in Santa Claus!
Stage Two: I do not believe in Santa Claus!
Stage Three: I AM Santa Claus!
Perhaps some will think he was over influenced by his studies in Zen Buddhism. But it’s certainly a memorable phrasing. And I think he’s got a point.
At any rate, has a child ever asked you whether there really is a Santa Claus?
Well, God is truth, and all lies are by nature foreign to God. So lying isn’t a good option for us. Yet our hearts hesitate. We sense that there is a goodness in the innocence of the child’s belief – something that we want to preserve, if we can. So, what’s a person to do?
What follows is a piece that allow me to look a child in the eyes and say, with a twinkle in my eye: “Well, I don’t know about other people, but *I* believe in Santa Claus.”
The genius of the piece, to my mind, is that it resolves our dilemma: it allows us to speak truthfully AND preserve the innocence of the child.
And it just might re-enchant the world for us, too.
Most people have heard of this piece. But, in my experience, few have actually read it, or really remember what it says. So go ahead – read it. And let yourself believe again.
Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus
We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
Dear Editor--I am eight 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 W. 95th Street
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical 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 child-like 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 you 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 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.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial.