I admit it. I’m getting older. I can see all the signs.
This time of the year, I’m addicted to the many classic Christmas movies which fill our TV screens almost 24/7 during the month of December. I don’t know if it’s nostalgia, hope for the future, seasonal loneliness, or a simple longing for a “happy ending.”
I tear up much too fast and far too often. I readily demonstrate the three most telling symptoms of a “softie”:
- Tear in the eye
- Lump in the throat
- Warmth in the heart
… and all three usually occur midway through these Christmas classics. I love these trips down Memory Lane even though I’ve seen most of these classics more times than I can remember. While they never get old to me, I also have to admit that I have little interest in the animated specials or “cartoons” as we used to call them unless I’m watching them with my grandchildren.
However, this year I had advanced notice of an animated special featuring one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories … which, by the way, is based on a true story. The night it aired, I had plans I couldn’t get out of so I taped it to watch later when I got home.
As a result, I ended up watching the entire movie in the early hours of the morning. It was perfect. Full moon shining across the lake and through my floor to ceiling windows, snow falling gently, roaring fire in the fireplace, giant bowl of buttered popcorn, and enough ice cold Coke to float a boat! What more could anyone ask? I got comfortable, adapted the necessary mind set, snuggled up in a warm blanket and settled in for what turned out to be a fabulous rendition of “Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus!”
Now don’t jump to conclusions. Although animated, it was a very powerful story that rendered a tremendously relevant message for adults as well as children. Although the network special only lasted 30 minutes, I managed to experience all three of the “softie symptoms” within the first five minutes.
This version had everything … the cutest and most lovable “Virginia” I’ve ever seen, an innocent younger brother who worshiped his big sister, the mean older school mate who spilled the beans even though she wanted to believe, concerned parents who weren’t sure how to handle this critical situation, an alcoholic street Santa who was wiser than first appraised, and a grumpy newspaper editor who had a change of heart that brought joy to the hearts of millions of children for decades to come. This is a classic that should be viewed by children from 9 to 90. It redefines hope, faith and the true Christmas Spirit at time when everyone in the country could benefit from a “spiritual boost.”
I mentioned earlier that this classic was based on a true story. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun newspaper because a few of her friends told her Santa was not real. Her father told her that “If you see it in the Sun, it’s so!” The novel response was printed as an unsigned editorial September, 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Frank Church 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.
The story of Virginia’s inquiry and the Sun‘s response was adapted into an Emmy Award-winning animated television special in 1974 featuring the voices of Jim Backus and Jimmy Osmond, and in 1991 it was adapted into a made-for-TV movie with Richard Thomas and Charles Bronson. In New York City, local television journalist Gabe Pressman has recounted the story every Christmas for the past 30 years.
Here’s the story as it was written on that fateful day 112 years ago. You’ll find it as heart-warming and relevant as it was the day it was written.
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?”
The Editor answered:
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 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 truth and knowledge.
Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, 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 was 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 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 or 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 men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, and romance can push aside that curtain and view the picture and the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else more 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!
Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you’ve experienced at least one of the three “softie symptoms” or maybe even scored a “hat trick” (3 scores) as I did. Later tonight, I’m playing the role of Santa for 150 young needy children who still have faith in the “Santa” we all grew up with. It’s an awesome responsibility but a treasured privilege I won’t soon forget!