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Monday, December 24, 2012

Yes Virginia There still is a New York Sun Newspaper. In fact more than one.

"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?



 105 years ago Virginia  sent the above  letter to the New York Sun. In those days The Sun was  a big New York Daily competing with the newspapers of Hearst and Pulitzer on the eve of the Spanish American War. In fact her  letter arrived six months before war  was declared in 1898.

Most of us know Virginia's  letter and the answer she received from newspaper  reprints. or TV. At  this time of the year the September 21st 1987 front page of the Sun can being found on many refrigerator doors. .The preferred method of attachment  is  magnets that feature such things as  pizza delivery phone numbers or zoo animals.The magnets are  an  indication  of a permanence worthy of other treasured  Christmas ornaments  that appear and disappear with the season. The reprint  at the top of this page  devotes the whole front page to Virginia's letter and the reply.That is called editorial licence.  In actuality her  letter was one of seven published that September  day  and the newspaper's  answer was unsigned. The letter and the reply did  did however get good ink as the red rectangle on the left indicates. The Newseum tells us the reply was.....
The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church. It has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

Unfortunately some of the more recent TV specials give short shrift to the New York Sun. One even has the paper ignoring the letter all together (because it's not news)  until an ex-employee turned  street corner Santa, bell ringing,  pan handler shames the newspaper  into responding.

In reality the Sun took Virginia's letter  quite seriously.  The father's "if you see it in the Sun it must be so " put them  on the spot. Today it is easy to imagine a modern day newspaper not wishing to offend anyone or any group,  rejecting the letter as too controversial.

The Sun assigned the reply to veteran editorial  writer  Frank Church. He was a graduate of Columbia University where every holiday season Virginia's letter and his reply are read in a special ceremony. He was also a Civil War  Correspondent  who had seen much of life's unpleasant side. In fact he was still recovering from the death of his first wife. The paper usually  went to Church when they had an editorial topic of a religious or theological nature. He did not disappoint.

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 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.

So Virgina  There is a New York Sun. Is and will be in some form or another ad perpetuum. We are told that the  life we live is  is finite. We are told that Frank Church  died in 1906 and the New York Sun you  wrote to folded in 1949. You yourself  Virginia, lived quite a productive life before passing in 1971. Still every Holiday Season  we remember all of you and benefit from your  presence.
Think of it Virginia . If you hadn't had the gumption to question your little friend's skepticism and your father hadn't suggested writing the Sun, Frank Church wouldn't  have written the editorial he is famous  for. In fact we wouldn't have known any of you or had a definitive reason to believe and the world  would be a poorer place.No New York Sun the skeptics say ?  Thank God the paper lives on refrigerator 
doors every  Holiday Season and rather recently in another incarnation as an on line newspaper.
You can look it up. The Masthead is the same only smaller to fit a computer screens. They take themselves a bit seriously at the new Sun  but they are young and perhaps affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. A thousand  years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now there will be newspapers in one form or another published on line, in ink, or even by a spirit duplicator to answer the questions in the hearts and minds of all.

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