Tag Archives: Francis Pharcellus Church

Little girl was immortalized, then she grew up

Have you ever wondered what happened to Virginia O’Hanlon after she wrote that famous letter to the New York Sun asking if Santa Claus really existed?

I have. Maybe you have, too. If that’s the case, here’s what I have learned.

Virginia lived to the ripe age of 81. She died in a nursing home in 1971.

But before that — and after she wrote the letter that prompted the timeless editorial that assured her that “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” — she became a teacher. She earned her master’s degree from Columbia University and her doctorate from Fordham University.

Virginia married and had children. She moved from New York City to another community in New York.

I presume she lived a quiet, normal life. I am glad to know she got to grew old. I hope her family was near her when she died.

Virginia’s grandson, James Temple, said this in 2004 about his immortal grandmother, noting something she had said to him: “All I did was ask the question . . . Mr. Church’s editorial was so beautiful . . . It was Mr. Church who did something wonderful.”

“Mr. Church” was Francis Pharcellus Church, who penned those words in 1897 answering the question of a little girl.

That golden prose will stand the test of time forever and ever.

And now . . . for a bit of Christmas cheer

Francis Pharcellus Church immortalized a little girl in 1897.

Virginian O’Hanlon was 8 years of age when she wrote Church, the editor of the New York Sun, asking him if Santa Claus exists. Her “papa” told her if she wrote The Sun, that she would learn the truth.

Church responded all right. His editorial to little Virginia has become a Christmas classic.

I have shared it with you before in this blog. I cannot share it enough. It makes me smile and it fills my heart with holiday joy every time I read it. I hope it does for you, too.

Merry Christmas.


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, 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 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.

No Santa Claus? Are you kidding, ‘pastor’?

To be brutally honest, I hardly ever give this guy a passing thought.

However, he has thrust himself into the news yet again. David Grisham, the Repent Amarillo “pastor” who likes calling attention to himself, has done so in splendid fashion.

He went to Westgate Mall this past Saturday, according to the Dallas Morning News, and berated children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap. Santa Claus “doesn’t exist!” he told the children and their parents.

Really, “pastor”? Not in anyone’s heart? Not in their imagination?

Oh, no. This guy wants Christmas to be strictly, solely, exclusively about celebrating Jesus Christ’s birth. Hasn’t anyone ever informed this fellow that one can do both? I’m going to presume for a moment that when he was a child he got to sit on Santa’s lap and tell the Jolly Old Man what he wanted for Christmas.


As the Morning News article points out, Grisham has paraded himself in front of the media before. He once tried to launch a boycott against the city of Houston because voters there elected an openly gay mayor, Annise Parker; he also sought to burn a Quran, but had the copy of the Islamic holy book taken from him at the last minute at Sam Houston Park in Amarillo by a skateboarder.

No Santa Claus, eh?


Well, now is a good time to bring back the classic essay that dispels for all time the no-Santa farce. Perhaps you’ve heard of the piece that was written by Francis Pharcellus Church. It was published on Sept. 21, 1897 in the New York Sun.


“Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus”


Take that, “Pastor” Grisham!

Blogger’s Note: I refuse to refer to David Grisham as a pastor without putting quote marks around the word, as in “pastor.” To my way of thinking and to my understanding of the Bible, he is nothing of the sort.