The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Editorials

December 24, 2013

Yes, Virginia there really is a Santa Claus

Why it matters: The spirit of Christmas can be found in many places

More than a century ago, a little girl asked a big question of a great newspaper.

In a letter to the editor of the New York Sun, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, asked: “Is there a Santa Claus?”

Her friends had been telling here there was no Santa Claus, but her father advised her to ask the editors of The Sun. Her father said: “If you see it in The Sun. It’s so.”

We can certainly appreciate the faith her father had in newspapers. It was a time when newspapers were run by community leaders, who had the faith of their readers when it came to messages of truth and of the heart.

Perhaps Mr. O’Hanlon knew that the editors of The Sun would find a way to tell Virginia the truth. And they did. The unsigned editorial by veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church came to be one of the most reprinted newspaper editorials of all time.

According to the Newseum.org, the premier news museum in the U.S., the editorial has been reprinted in “dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.”

The staying power of the editorial as a poignant piece of journalism reflects the staying power of the ideas contained within. It’s a message of hope and faith appropriate for the season and year round.

Church told Virginia her “friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.”

If those words rang true in 1897, they may ring more true today. Unless we make it different by making a difference. Skepticism may be a virtue in today’s skeptical age, but it also crowds out hope if we let it.

Hope is the opposite of skepticism. We can see hope all around us if we look hard enough.

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