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I want to be a Virginia.

Tuesday and Wednesday the Dresden Dolls were in Boston and in their second performance (both of which I went to), they read the response to Virginia O’Hanlon in the New York Sun when she asked if there was a Santa Claus. Every year for Christmas my mom used to read this letter, but I sadly had forgotten about it. With this new reading, I was duly inspired. This letter is not just a response to the existence of Santa Claus, not simply a Christmas themed letter, but something extraordinarily beautiful. I consider it one of the best things ever written in the history of the world. My response to it is in embodied in a college supplement I wrote the other night, and I simply had to share it.

 

Never again will I doubt the existence of magic. On September 21st, 1897, a little girl, named Virginia, questioned the existence not only of Santa Claus, but of belief and all that it holds. I wish to be a Virginia. As Francis Church so dutifully responds, the world without Virginia’s would be dreary, would be incomprehensible and unbearable. I believe this is so, and never again will I doubt that inside of everyone is a Virginia. Even those most skeptic believe in magic—whether it be fairies dancing on a lawn in the morning dew, or perhaps the ingenuity and harmonies of Beethoven, or maybe indeed simply the beauty that a single poppy can hold in the right sunlight. All of these things, whether real or imaginary are magic. And who is to say there is a “real”? If something is believed, it is real. As Carl Jung says,  if there is no one to believe there is no existence. So what if we stopped believing in gravity? In water? In ourselves? All of these things would become as imaginary as love or beauty or peace. So as a Virginia I will turn my back on hatred, I refuse to believe in ignorance and suffering with the hope that these will one day also be imaginary if we all cease to believe. But never again will I doubt the existence of Santa Claus, and never will I turn away from hope.

 

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Yes, Virginia

On September 21st, 1897, Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the New York Sun inquiring not only about the existence of Santa Claus, but about hope and childlike faith as well.

 

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

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except 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 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 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 man, 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 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 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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