Santa bashing? Not on my watch

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By John Whitlock

Back when I was the editor of a paper in Corbin, I had a pair of religion columnists who submitted the same pre-Christmas article every year.

These columnists were very devout, very conservative and very traditional in their writing. They often came out and decried the “modern’ world and urged readers to abandon some of the more secular aspects of Christmas.

While I agree there are times the true meaning of Christmas gets shoved to the side in favor of 50-percent off sales, holiday parties and grabbing the newest version of Tickle Me Elmo, I will always be a big believer in Santa Claus.

Each year, these columnists would submit a column designed to bash Ole Saint Nick.

And each year, I would pull their column and write them a quick note. I would tell these columnists that Santa has a distinguished place in the hearts and minds of everyone who reads the paper and we wouldn’t be publishing anything  that spoke ill of the jolly old elf.

Not on my watch.

The first time they tried to pull this stunt, I found the finest piece of  Santa defense ever written. I published the piece. It reprints below this column.

The piece was a big hit.

Although many people have heard of  the famous “Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus” editorial, it seems only a few have actually read it.

The piece was written by Francis Pharcellus Church and published in the old New York Sun, Sept. 20, 1897.

When it was first printed, the impact of the piece wasn’t foreseen by the editorial-page editors. It was simply seen as a response to a child’s question.

At that time, newspapers were unquestionably the dominant form of news across the country. Even though some papers may have lacked the highest ethical standards, their words were extremely powerful and often taken at face value.

I am one of those people, as the old saying goes, with “ink in my blood” and I appreciate what Church did in his editorial.

He took a stand and was willing to offer something more than just the news of the day. I think that’s why his work stands so tall and endures more than 100 years later.

For me, the battle with the columnists became a holiday tradition. They would submit an anti-Santa column and I would reject it. They would call me, wonder why their piece was rejected, and make a couple of complaints about free speech and the right to have their opinion heard.

I just flat out rejected their arguments.

I’m a pretty liberal editor and I think that the editorial page should reflect the community and the people in it – even if I don’t agree with all of the opinions expressed.

But Santa bashing is different. Talking bad about Santa isn’t going to happen.

Not on my watch.

There is plenty of room for Santa as part of the Christmas holiday. It’s up to moms and dads to decide how to celebrate Christmas.

It’s outside of a newspaper’s responsibility and you’ll never see an unkind word about Santa on these pages.

Rest easy, Mr. Claus.

We’ve got your back.

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?

Virginia O’Hanlon

115 West 95th Street

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 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.

Reprinted from the New York Sun, Sept. 20, 1897.