Warm thoughts at Christmastime

Among the most memorable of newspaper editorials ever put to paper was published Sept. 21, 1897 in the New York Sun and is credited to Francis P. Church, characterized by the Newseum, a repository of the history of journalism, as a "veteran newsman."

Though published as summer was turning to fall, the subject was Christmas, as the editorial reply was to a letter from Virginia O'Hanlon, 8, who was curious as to the existence of Santa Claus. The Sun's editorial has often been republished and was even made into a movie. The tale is somewhat compelling as it depicts the 40-year-old Mr. Church struggling in the aftermath of his wife's death when he is tasked with replying to the child's letter about Santa.

Mr. Church's comments famously contain the line: "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."

The line has become one that remains in common use, often as a conversational tag to note a comment that is seen as a bit of well-intentioned bit of fiction.

It's easy to dismiss the old Sun editorial – newspaper itself folded in 1950 – as a bit of well-intentioned fiction, but to cynically dismiss Mr. Church's thoughts as having no relevance in our modern world is to miss the a more lofty meaning he appeared to be trying to convey to Ms. O'Hanlon, even as she was coming to terms with the realities of growing up. (The full text of the editorial can be found at: http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/

Plainly stated, Mr. Church made reference to a higher reality that is hidden by the curtain of the mundane things in our daily lives that we perceive as reality: "...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."

As we approach a Christmas observance darkened by the tragedy of a slaughter of innocents in another part of our country, it's good to reflect on the reality that there is, indeed, a Santa Claus even adults can believe in, so long as there are truths that can be revealed only by faith, fancy, poetry, love and romance.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad