Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus


Originally published by The New York Sun, September 21, 1897

We take pleasure in answering at once and thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

"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?

114 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 here. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You 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.


Virginia's original letter to The New York Sun.



Virginia O'Hanlon's full name is Laura Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas. She was born July 20, 1889 in Manhattan.  Her marriage to Edward Douglas was brief, and ended with him deserting her shortly before their child, Laura, was born.

Virginia received her Bachelor of Arts from Hunter College in 1910; a Master's degree from Columbia University in 1912, and a doctorate from Fordham University. She was a school teacher in the New York City School system, and retired in 1959.

She received a steady stream of mail about her letter throughout her life. In an interview later in life, she credited the editorial with shaping the direction of her life quite positively.  Virginia died on May 13, 1971 in a nursing home and is buried at the Chatham Rural Cemetery in New York. 


The original article in The New York Sun was titled "Is there a Santa Claus?" and was not credited, but it was written by one of the editors of the paper - Francis Pharcellus Church.

Back in 1897, Francis Pharcellus Church was as unlikely a choice as any to write an answer to 8-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon's question, "Is there a Santa Claus?" A gruff, no-nonsense type of newspaperman, he had been a war correspondent for The New York Times during the Civil War. He and his wife had no children. As his colleagues recalled, he was unenthused about his assignment. But Church sat at his desk with Virginia's handwritten letter before him and began to write .

The New York Sun was published from 1833 until 1950 when it merged with the NY World Telegram