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Who is Virginia and how does she know Santa anyway?

Many people have heard the phrase “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” but don’t know much about the story behind it.

It all begins in 1897 when the daughter of Dr. O’Hanlon asked if Santa was real. Virginia had been told by her friends that Santa was made up, and she wanted to know the truth. Her father’s response was a suggestion to write the New York Sun since newspapers had to report the truth.

This rather delicate question landed on the desk of one Francis P. Church, a war correspondent. He followed with a stirring editorial. It’s doubtful that anyone knew at that time just how important the following words (the first paragraph of the writing) would become to children and adults everywhere:

“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.
And the closing of the letter:

“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.

As a testament to the truth of these words, this editorial is the most reprinted one in English history.


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