Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus
Virginia lived in New York City in the late 19th Century. Her friends told her that Santa Claus did not exist. Virginia, in 1897, was 8.
Virginia's father, Dr. Philip O'Hanlon, encouraged Virginia to ask her question of The Sun, an esteemed New York newspaper. "If you see it in The Sun," Philip said, "it's so."
So Virginia wrote to The Sun. And The Sun answered.
In one of the most famous editorials ever written, Francis Church, an editor at The Sun, said, in part: "Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus."
The editorial was published on Sept. 21, 1897, and has been reprinted and shared thousands of times since.
Virginia's letter and The Sun's editorial are reproduced below, in full.
"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
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.
Virginia herself remained famous throughout her life. She received a great many letters about her famous question, and she routinely wrote back, including a copy of The Sun editorial in her response.
She went on to a career in teaching, in New York. She received a master's degree from Columbia University and a doctorate from Fordham University. Her letter and The Sun editorial are read each year at Columbia, in a special ceremony.
Virginia was married and had children and grandchildren. She died in 1971.
The popularity of Virginia's letter has not waned in the more than 100 years since. The story is the basis of several books, musical works, movies, and TV programs.