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Robert McNamara

Newspaper Sunday: Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

By December 23, 2012

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Perhaps the most famous newspaper editorial ever published appeared in the New York World a few months before Christmas in 1897. An eight-year-old girl, Virginia O'Hanlon, wrote a letter to the newspaper asking if Santa Claus was real. Her friends were skeptical.

An veteran newspaperman, Francis Pharcellus Church, responded, opening with, "Virginia, your little friends are wrong."

In the second paragraph Church insisted, "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..."

Church continued for three more paragraphs, and his response to young Virginia O'Hanlon has become an enduring bit of Christmas lore.

An excerpt from the "Yes, Virginia" editorial can be viewed at the Chronicling America site of the Library of Congress. If you view the entire page of the New York Sun, you can find the entire editorial about halfway down the third column.

More On Christmas In the 19th Century:

Illustration: Santa Claus as drawn by cartoonist Thomas Nast/Library of Congress

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