In 1897, a certain Dr. Philip O'Hanlon, a coroner's assistant, was faced with a minor family crisis. His eight-year-old daughter, Virginia, had begun to doubt in the existence of Santa Claus. Her friends had been telling her that he was no more than a piece of fiction.
Dr. O'Hanlon told his little daughter to write to the Sun, a prominent New York newspaper at the time, in the assurance that the paper would tell her the truth. While he was possibly passing the buck because he couldn't bear to tell his daughter that Santa Claus was a myth, he unwittingly gave one of paper's editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, an opportunity to rise above the simple question, and to speak to the philosophical issues behind it.
Mr. Church was a war correspondent during the American Civil War, a time which saw great suffering and a corresponding lack of hope and faith in much of society. Although the paper ran the editorial in the seventh place on the editorial page, below even an editorial on the newly invented "chainless bicycle", its message struck a chord in the hearts of people who read it. After over a century, it is today the most reprinted editorial ever to run in any newspaper in the English language. Although many have cast doubt on whether Virginia, rather than her father, actually wrote the letter to the editor, noting that a young girl would not refer to children her own age as "my little friends", the message that was contained in the response is considered as pertinent today as it was in 1897.
For the complete text of the response, see " class="external">http://www.barricksinsurance.com/virginia.html The story of Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus was adapted by Bill Melendez (the producer of the Peanuts TV specials) into an Emmy Award-winning 30-minute animated TV special in 1974, starring the voices of Jim Backus and Jimmy Osmond. While this TV special has been largely forgotten and has not attained the legendary status of Backus' Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol, it is still seen as one of the rare gems of television that can touch a viewer's heart.
See also: Christmas stories