Monday, December 26, 2016
As veteran newsman, Francis Church, tackled the age old question, this time, as inquired by the brave and inquisitive 8 year old, Virginia O'Hanlon, "Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?" I can only imagine the weight his penetrating words must have felt as he sent his bound to be famous answer off to print:
"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."
He finished by adding, “A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, Santa will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”
In an emotional moment, a little girl sought an answer during her crisis in faith after being told harshly that Santa did not exist. She turned to what she saw as her most reputable source, The New York Sun, because if it was written in The Sun it had to be true! Realizing the depth and importance of this answer, Mr. Church chose to respond and what an iconic response he gave. Can you picture little Virginia's excitement in, not only seeing her name in the paper, but the sheer joy he must have given her by providing her with the answer she so desperately wanted to hear.
Of course, 8 year old Virginia grew up and I'm sure her understanding of his words changed along the way, but, in an interview she gave 66 years later, she talked about how that letter changed her life and her faith, and, the older she grew, the more she realized, what a perfect philosophy it was for life.
I suppose we are all entitled to have our own interpretations of what the holidays should or should not be. So, for the nay sayers who don't believe in feeding this kind of folklore into our children or to those who couldn't imagine the magic of Christmas without him, the choice is there if you wish to entertain the notion or not. Or, at least, that is what I thought until recently.
A week or so before Christmas, I was walking down a sidewalk and I overheard a man talking to a young child. The little girl asked the man, "why don't they ever play Hanukkah songs in the stores?" His reply after a quick thought and sigh, "I guess people just don't know them as well." Admittedly, I don't know them. I don't know any of them. Besides for Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel, and a mention of Kwanzaa, the majority of my exposure to Holiday music is about Jesus or Silent Night or Santa or Jingle Bells or Rudolph, ....okay you get the idea.
I respect other cultures and what or how they celebrate, but, it is clearly not represented in our society or decor as much. I have always seen Santa in the shopping mall as your choice but not as something that clearly does not exist at all to some. So, I started to wonder, as we live in this ever changing time where many other issues strive for political correctness, will Santa too find himself among st a sea of protesters demanding change and equality by derailing his presence in public places? Could Mr. Church's prediction of Santa's ongoing existence be wrong? The last couple of years have proved that anything is possible, and, as we learn or fight to co-exist, the envelope is constantly being pushed that what some treasure dearly, others do not.
Santa made it through 2016 without his head on the chopping block. We went to see him (several times!) and I admit, I do still feel the excitement and joy of his presence that I choose to share with my own children. The birth of Jesus and the tale of Santa co exist in our house and the love, generosity, and devotion that Mr. Church explained is always present each year in our hearts as we celebrate the holiday.
Whatever, the future may hold, may we never lessen those feelings in our hearts or deprive others of it.