June 27, 2017

‘Twas the day before Christmas

‘Twas the day before Christmas and all through the house, everybody was stirring – including the mice.

Yuletide is, without a doubt, the most hectic of holidays. You scurry here and there, buying presents, gathering decorations, buying food for the traditional dinner and wondering why, once again, you didn’t get Christmas cards in the mail.

Christmas this year was complicated by the ice storm that wouldn’t die. Two straight days of temperatures above 40 degrees have finally started to dent the sheet of solid ice that coats our driveway but Greenbriar Lane remains slick and treacherous as do many county roads. We ventured over to Goose Creek last night for Fred and Ann First’s annual holiday bash and found his road still ice covered, providing a luge-like ride down the narrow dirt road that leads to Castle First.

The St. Lawrences, who moved from Charlottesville to Floyd County last week to find their home not ready for human habitation, reside in our guest bedroom along with two cats that disturb The Force in our four cats’ lives, giving David a chance to comment on feline corporate hierarchy in his popular blog.

Tomorrow, my mother joins us for Christmas dinner and the opening of presents. But I remember a time before Christmas 52 years ago when she, in an attempt to be modern and honest, told me the truth about Santa Claus, a piece of vital information that I could not wait to share with my classmates at Floyd Elementary School. Several broke into tears and Mrs. Houchins, my teacher, promptly dispatched me to the principal’s office where I got a lecture and three days detention, It was my first lesson that telling the truth can get you into trouble, a lesson repeated many times over during my journalism career.

I knew at an early age that Santa Claus, as a person, did not exist but I also learned later on that the spirit of Santa Claus and the holiday can be real when we don’t let politics, religion or other biases get in the way. Many have written about the spirit of Christmas and Santa Claus but no one has done it better than the New York Sun on September 21, 1987. Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

IS THERE A SANTA CLAUS?

We take pleasure in answering at once and 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 me 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 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 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 life 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 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 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.

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