Yes, Virginia There Is A Santa Claus!
You may remember that three weeks ago a teacher at Cedar Hill School in New Jersey told her class of first graders there is no Santa Claus. She didn’t stop there. In fact, she unloaded on the sacred fantasies of six-years olds.
She told them Santa isn’t real and doesn’t bring them presents. Parents, she said, buy presents and put them under the tree. Reindeers can’t fly and elves are not real — the elf on the shelf is just a pretend doll — the tooth fairy is not real. Mom or dad sneak into your room in the middle of the night and put a dime under your pillow. The Easter bunny? No! Magic does not exist.
What would you call this sort of rant by an adult aimed at 22 captive six-year olds? I call it child abuse. It’s like all child abuse, physical or emotional, it robs children of their childhood innocence. It’s cruel, merciless, sadistic even.
Do you remember when reality hit you, and you knew instinctively knew Santa Claus was not real? Remember how sad it made you, at least for a little while? It was a sense of loss, right? You lost something when you gained that knowledge. You knew it was gone and never coming back. That innocence, that sheer joy and happiness was gone. To be sure, joy and happiness itself was not gone, just that very special ability to believe in something wonderful without question, without doubt. Oh, it did hurt!
I was 7 when reality knocked on the door to my brain. That’s about the age it hits most of us, around 6 or 7, maybe 8 for some. See, the thing is that a child’s brain has a special ability to simultaneously believe two inconsistent things. Child can believe Santa flies from the North Pole on a sleigh pulled through the night sky by a team of reindeer. Even though, if pressed, that child also knows no 4-legged ungulate can fly. To press them on that is something few parents would ever do. They know it would be cruel, they know childhood is supposed to allow children to be happy in a certain way that is likely to be forever denied them after the mental awakening that will come soon enough.
As a child’s brain develops it gets hard to believe two contradictory things. I remember how forlorn I instantly became when one day my brain must have popped a cork somewhere and I just knew Santa wasn’t real. I haven’t stopped talking about him as if he were real, though. It’s too much fun. It’s just so delightful.
Here is an account of how adults 121 years ago dealt with a child’s question whether Santa is real. It’s how all adults who love children and don’t want to hurt them should deal with it.
Eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun in 1897 to ask if there really was a Santa Claus.
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?
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 [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.