Sunday, December 26, 2004

Yes Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus

Spring 05 Classes

I decided to continue the Christmas season theme today by reprinting Francis P. Church's famous editorial in the New York Sun newspaper entitled Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. The editorial first appeared on September 21, 1897 in response to a letter from the eight year old, Virginia O'Hanlon of New York City and was reprinted on the editorial pages of the New York Sun every year until the paper ceased publication in 1949.

While the public focus of the holiday is on shopping and retail sales statistics, it is important to remember that there is a spiritual as well as a material aspect to Christmas and without the spiritual part the holiday is reduced to just another exercise in consumption. As I pointed out in my December 6th St. Nicholas Day posting, Christmas has always been a mixture of both the secular and religious and gift giving has been a part of the mix from the beginning with the Magi bringing gifts to the Christ Child.

So why is this a concern of economics? First of all, not only have theologians and philosophers, from ancient times to the present, made pronouncements about economic issues, but the science of economics had its origins in moral philosophy. The scholastics at the University of Salamanca in Spain began the theoretical groundwork for modern for modern free market economics in the fifteenth century. Adam Smith, the father of modern economics, was a professor of moral philosophy. Secondly the spiritual values that Francis P. Church lauded in the editorial with the words "Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond" can only be pursued by people who have advanced beyond the simple material existence stage of development and mastered the skills of specialization and division of labor. Our first primitive ancestors had to devote full time to satisfying basic material needs of obtaining food and shelter. Only after they learned to organize and begin producing a surplus of food and shelter could they afford to indulge in higher pursuits that feed the spirit.

Editorial Page, New York Sun, September 21, 1897 - We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:
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 the truth, is there a Santa Claus?
Virginia O' Hanlon, 115 West Ninety-fifth 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 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 external 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 you 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 of, or imagine, all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You 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, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural 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 lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

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