Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Christmas Magic By: Nan O'Berry

In 1987, something happened that changed Christmas and brought an understanding of the magic in the season. It brought an old curmudgeon, a little girl, a wise old elf, and a newspaper together to enhance and spread the idea of faith.

But before we bring the players out, we have to go all the way back to September of that year. In a small brownstone building on West Ninety fifth Street in the great city of New York, there a sweet child had been tormented by her schoolmates. Returning home in tears, she recounted the discussion that led to an argument.

“Is Santa Claus real?”

Though her mother consoled her, the answers she gave did not satisfy the inquisitive nature of this eight year old. So, the discussion continued when her father came home. A brilliant man and a devote to the New York Sun, he surmised that…”If you read it in the Sun, it must be true.”

Well, in those days as we know, there were no Google searches, no internet. Mr. Claus himself was brought to our shores by immigrants, who recounted the tales brought from their homelands. The Dutch who established New Amsterdam later New York, knew him as Sinta Klaas which was later converted to Saint Nicholas (1773). Later (1809) a writer by the name of Washington Irving gave him a blue three cornered hat, a red waist coat, and yellow stockings. But the real image we have of Santa Claus, came to use by Clement Moore and the illustrator, Thomas Nast. Suddenly, he was a “right jolly old elf” who wore a red suit, drove a sleigh pulled by reindeer through the night sky and miraculously delivered toys to the world in one night alone!

 I must say it was quite the deed. Yet, I digress. Let me get back to my tale.

On this September evening, our intrepid young waif, was urged by her father to write a letter. Pencil and paper in hand, she penned these lines. 

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?

Well of course, the letter was mailed and when it came to the Sun, the brother of the owner, a cynic, an atheist, who didn’t believe in superstitious belief was given the task of answering the child. I wonder how hard it was to know that your words would doom a child to heartbreak if they were rough and unhewned? Did her innocence affect his answer?

Francis Pharcellus Church had to rise to the occasion. He wrote to little Virginia O’Hanlon a letter which still brings tears to our eyes and gives us the most wondrous look behind the veil of belief with our hearts.

He told her,

 “Yes, Virginia, your little friends are wrong. 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 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.”

Although his words touched everyone’s heart and provided proof that this is something more tangible
 to St. Nicholas that many wish to believe, Mr. Church never signed the editorial. 

And what became of our Virginia O’Hanlon? Oh, I believe she carried that editorial around in her hands
 for quite some time. She lived from 1889 to 1971. Her little letter, still touches the hearts of children 
and adults everywhere.  

 As we begin this season of love, let us keep Virginia’s wide eyed innocence and belief that there is
 nothing but good in this world for those who do believe.

To the readers of Cowboy Kisses, allow me to wish you all the most wonderful of holidays and a very, 
very Merry Christmas.

The editorial can be found using these links:  The letter used in this article was found here:

Sun editor Frances Pharcellus Church (1839-1906) -  
Scan of the original version of the editorial published in The New York Sun

1 comment:

Julie Lence said...

Beautiful, Nan! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas to you and your family.