More than a century ago, little 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked the editor of her local newspaper, The (New York) Sun, “Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”
Apparently, some of her friends had said the Man in Red was a tall tale, a figment of imagination – a story made up for babies. Her father told her, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,” so, she turned to its pages for the facts.
The letter wound up in the hands of editorial writer Francis Church, putting him in a bit of an awkward position.
Mr. Church was no innocent, Pollyannaish optimist. The 58-year-old journalist (a profession known for breeding cynics) had seen the worst of human nature while reporting on the bloody and divisive American Civil War. It is said he was not happy to be charged with replying to the young writer – that he “bristled and pooh-poohed” when he was given the assignment, in the way of grumpy newspapermen everywhere.
But then, he reached for a deeper truth:
“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus,” he wrote, in what is believed to be the most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time. “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.”
He wrote, “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.”
Each year, we take refuge in holiday routines – shopping, cooking, decorating, volunteering, worshipping, visiting friends and comforting the ill and infirm – that are somehow made more magical by the yuletide season. Call it “Christmas Spirit” – the feeling is as familiar as it is difficult to describe.
Somehow, phrases and sentiments that are absent from our vocabularies in June or August reappear annually in late December with joy and good spirit: God rest you, merry gentlemen. Peace on Earth, goodwill to men.
As Mr. Church opined in a New York newspaper office generations ago, “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 .… Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.”
Somehow, at Christmas, we feel the window open just a little wider – letting more of those unseen wonders enter our lives.
We are not the first (nor will we be the last) to wish the sense of wonder, of magic, that generous Christmas spirit was more closely at hand every day of the year. Perhaps – like youth or a Seven Mile Beach sunset – it is all the more precious precisely because we know it will fade.
Until then, our Christmas wish is that all of Cayman embrace the season, and each other, with joyous hearts and loving kindness. Revel in the magic of the season and share it with ingenuous abandon.
Yes, Cayman, there is a Santa Claus – he is kindled in each of our hearts. This season, may he find a home in yours.