As we decorated our Christmas tree the other day, I hung an ornament which is an engraved metal tube. Inside the tube is a small roll of paper printed with the text of the famous editorial response to a young girl’s question in 1897. I have always had a fondness for this historical editorial, known ever after as “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.”
For those of you who might not recall the story, let me provide a brief recap. In the fall of 1897, a young girl, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, was having an argument with some school friends about Santa Claus. Her friends’ claims that he did not exist worried her so much, she decided to write a letter to The Sun, a now-defunct newspaper in New York. One of the editorial writers for the paper, Francis Church, wrote a heart-felt response to Virginia, which was so popular, it became the most reprinted editorial ever. Here is a reprint of Virginia’s letter and the editor’s response:
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.
"The most real things in the world are those that
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.
[From The Sun, September 21, 1897]
I hope reading this has helped you discover a child’s faith and joy this Christmas season.
I was wrapping some gifts earlier this week (no, I am normally not that organized, but I had a reason) and it made me start wondering about wrapping paper, and when we started using it. A quick internet search for the answer to that question produced an unexpected confluence with Christmas fun, romance writers, and relaxing movies.
I can almost see some of you scratching your heads.
Let me explain.
First, some interesting background on wrapping paper. As it turns out, wrapping gifts started in ancient Asia. However, it didn’t really catch on in the West until the latter half of the 1800s, after Christmas cards became popular. The Victorian gift paper was very thick and elaborate, often decorated with ribbons and lace, and quite expensive to buy. In the early 20th century, people began replacing this thick paper with red, green or white tissue paper, which provided a more cost-effective option for a wider range of people to use.
How did we get from there to where we are now? In 1917, a stationery store in Kansas City ran out of tissue paper to sell to their customers. Not wanting to miss out on potential sales, they brought in some lengths of decorated French paper they normally used to line envelopes in their card factory. They sold out of this as well, and sold even more the next Christmas.
So in 1919, the Hall brothers decided to produce and sell their own decorative wrapping paper. Yes those Hall brothers, as in the founders of Hallmark. In that moment, a huge industry was born.
And that confluence I mentioned earlier? Well, when not pondering wrapping paper, I have also been noticing lately that a growing number of my favorite romance authors are having their books turned into movies or TV series. I think that is wonderful! It is a good thing for them, for the romance industry, and for the TV viewers. Like many others, I enjoy taking a break from holiday business by watching a sweet Christmas movie in the evening. The experience is even better when it is based on a book I have read – extra points if it is an author I have met.
I think one could say that Hallmark is a major reason for the large variety of Christmas movies available on TV channels now. So from a personal standpoint, I am glad the Hall brothers ran out of issue paper 100-plus years ago. More and more, I prefer sweet movies with a HEA and a minimum of grimness to slog through. If the Hall brothers and their successors hadn’t become so successful and creating and selling cards and paper, they would not have been able to start a TV channel, and many of the shows and movies I watch might never have been born. And some great authors might not have seen their stories come to life on film. That’s what I call a win for everyone.
Now that I think about it, who says I have to wait for nighttime to watch a movie? The heavy snow falling outside my window right now has put me in the mood to curl up on the couch. Perhaps I’ll pop some popcorn and watch a fun, romantic Christmas movie. Care to join me?
I write historical romances, and I invite you to share the journey to published author with me.