Dear Virginia,

Is there a Santa Claus? It’s funny that you would ask. Some years ago your great, great, great-grandmother (her name was Virginia, too) wondered the same thing. She wrote a letter to The Sun, a big-city newspaper, and the editor published his reply for everyone to read. Here’s that famous exchange:


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.


From this, Virginia, you may take it that all sorts of things we can’t see are real—like fairies dancing on the lawn. Might we add unicorns, flying horses, and talking dogs? There’s no end to what we can imagine, is there?

Similarly, Virginia, did you know that people can think they see things that aren’t real? Things like malice in people of different creeds and colors . . . exit strategies for war . . . even money as a measure of self-worth.

Is there a Santa Claus? It’s a good question, Virginia. But you don’t need a newspaper editor to answer it. If you go to three department stores and see three different men in red suits all claiming to be Santa Claus, draw your own conclusion. Make an educated guess on how many chimneys there are in the world and how long it takes to go up and down one. Ask yourself why some kids, notoriously ill-behaved, find a pile of toys under the tree on Christmas morning—while others, model sons and daughters, get nothing.

Here’s the point, Virginia: You can think for yourself. When you do, you’ll discover answers. And these will lead to more questions. Such is life—questions that beg answers that reveal more questions. Just remember that answers only mean something when they follow good questions. Questions are the foundation for knowledge. So, keep asking good questions!

John Michael O'Leary