Some days, it’s hard to believe in Santa Claus. It’s altogether too easy to be “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age,” as the New York Sun’s Francis Pharcellus Church wrote in his famous response to an 8-year-old girl’s inquiry about the existence of the Jolly Old Elf. Yes, Virginia, we were a civilization of skeptics even way back in 1897. It seems that’s one area where society hasn’t made much progress.
Perhaps that explains why so much of that century-old newspaper editorial still rings true. The harsh realities of life have relegated such fantasy to the exclusive domain of the young and the naïve—and that is a mistake. If ever there was a time for us to embrace the idea of Santa Claus working in the shadows to make our dreams come true, this is it.
As Church pointed out, the naysayers hold a little too tight to the notion that seeing is believing. And what they see today doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in our collective prospects: double-digit unemployment and rising taxes, failing banks and falling stock prices, corporate corruption and partisan politics, religious wars and tragic deaths.
“They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds,” Church wrote, going on to make the point that all our minds—adults or children—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.”
There’s modern-day proof of those words of wisdom, too. How else can you explain the heated debate over what should be slam-dunk policy issues like banning smoking in public places? Only “little minds” would get worked into frenzies every time it snows (in Indiana, during the winter. C’mon, people). And there’s simply no other rationale for the popularity of so-called entertainment like “Jersey Shore” unless you’ve been drinking spiked eggnog.
But Santa Claus offers a timeout from reality. He is a slap in the face of skepticism. Santa represents good, old-fashioned faith.
Faith. The word itself makes some “little minds” nervous, given the religious connotation, but rest assured that Santa is as ecumenical as they come. Despite his historic ties to a Christian holiday, Santa transcends religion. He’s the incarnation of hope—the promise that somehow everything will be OK. And we need that now more than ever.
So, like Church, we’re believers. We believe in the good that balances out the bad, the beauty that makes the ugliness bearable, the love that makes it all worthwhile.
Our predecessor’s oft-quoted words are as valid today as they were 113 years ago:
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist … ” Church wrote. “Alas, how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus.”•
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