Bob Mitchell: A holiday tradition, ‘Yes Virginia’ reprinted

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Having nothing to do with the real reason for Christmas, but being a long-time tradition in publications throughout the nation, “Yes Virginia” first appeared in 1897 in a New York newspaper in response to a young girl’s question, “Is there a real Santa Claus?” The newsman, Francis Pharcellus Church, replied with this editorial and it became history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial:

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

“He exists as certain as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life the 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 children-like faith, then no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We would 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 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 there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor man can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that is no sign they are not there.

“No one can conceive or imagine all the wonders that are unseen or unseeable in the world.

“You may tear apart a baby’s rattle to see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which not the strongest man in the world can tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry and romance can push aside that curtain and view the supernal beauty and glory beyond.

“Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else so 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!”

Legend of St. Nicholas

Then there is the legend that could have begun in 352 in Asia Miner. It’s been titled the Legend of St. Nicholas, the loveliest in all history. His history is of a wealthy individual who enjoyed giving gifts that the origin would be known by no one.

Skipping forward in the myth, the existence came to the new world with Dutch settlers, who did away with his early donkey transport and put him aboard the sleigh that was pulled by reindeer and changed his name to Santa Claus.

This same information says much of the religious quality of this legend has been lost in our modern world. More and more our postman or another method of delivery are playing the part of St. Nicholas, yet in the imagination of children somewhere in the world there is still the existence of St. Nicholas.

And, in the words of a 13th Century carol, “The earth and all the sky places break into flowery smiles on the yearly message comes to the world of men, PEACE ON EARTH, GOOD WILL TO ALL!

Birthday of Jesus Christ

Angles told shepherds minding their flocks near Bethlehem of the birth of Jesus and where they could find him. They were quick to find their way to the town and find the stable where Mary and Joseph were staying and seeing the baby Jesus in the manger they were quick to leave the scene and spread the news of the arrival of Jesus into the world, just as the angles had told them.

Christmas can be nothing else, even in the forgetting world in which we exist today. The date, whether it is exact or not, is HIS DAY, regardless of what some might say or believe.

So, when Tuesday rolls around, preferably before all the holiday wrappings are encountered, why not persuade the family or group that might be gathered in your home for the observance to remember the birthday of Jesus.

Annual Mitchell greetings

Taking this space only a couple or three times a year is important to Sue and I. We want to send the very best wishes this Christmas season to each and every one of my readers. Remember the less fortunate and those experiencing grief as you celebrate this season.

Greetings from the Mitchells are coming from Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and California.

Merry Christmas to all!

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.