“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” But there almost wasn’t.
The famous line was penned part of a real 1897 New York Sun editorial written in response to the letter of a curious 8-year-old girl.
Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the Sun in September of that year in anticipation of the gifts she would receive that Christmas. The letter implored, “Please tell me the truth. Is there a Santa Claus?” But it was apparently misplaced or ignored for several weeks, according to research done by Joseph Campbell, a journalism professor at American University.
When the letter came to the paper’s attention again, a quick response was written by Francis P. Church:
“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.”
Readers were thrilled with the editorial and repeatedly asked the paper to reprint it each year, which the paper only did sporadically until the 1920s, when it was finally an annual feature until the paper folded in 1950.