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Is There a Santa Claus?
Harley Hahn's Answer

(Main page for "Is there a Santa Claus?")

Dear Harley:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you read what Harley Hahn has written, it's so."

Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

— Virginia O'Hanlon

Virginia, your little friends are right, but they don't understand what they are saying, and that is often worse than being wrong.

They have been affected by the shallowness of a shallow age. They believe because they are told. They think that nothing exists which cannot be grasped by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be adult's or children's, are different. In this great universe of ours, men and women are mere insects, ants, but our intellect can be boundless as compared to the limited world about us, an intellect that can thirst for an enduring quest for intelligence and a grasping of such truth and knowledge as one is capable of understanding.

No, Virginia, once you reach the age of questioning and reason, there is no Santa Claus. But your need for him is replaced by your needs for love and generosity and devotion, and, to the extent that these gifts abound, they give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if it had only Santa Claus to express its ideal of holiday spirit! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias (or Harleys). Our childlike faith would never mature and not even poetry or romance could make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except that which is superficial in sense and sight. The external light with which understanding and compassion fills the world would be extinguished.

Believe in Santa Claus? You might as well 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 you did see a Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? People believe they see many things, but that is no sign that there is really is a Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that both children and adults can teach themselves to understand, appreciate and explain to others. Did you ever think you saw fairies dancing on the lawn? Perhaps you may, but that's no proof that they exist. Nobody can depend wholly on imagination to conceive of all the wonders there are seeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering much of our world, a veil which requires the united strength of all the strongest, wisest, most determined men and women that ever lived to tear it apart. Neither faith nor poetry nor love nor romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. It requires learning, experience and much purposeful thought. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing more real and abiding than that which we come to understand and appreciate through our own efforts.

A real Santa Claus? Thank goodness children mature and replace their faith in a simple imaginary being with a genuine understanding of the human spirit and its potential for greatness — a greatness that can live forever and ever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, the kindness, generosity and wisdom of fathers, mothers, grandparents and friends will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

I wish you a very merry holiday season and a happy New Year!

P.S. Exactly one hundred years ago, a young girl with the same name as you asked the very same question you did, but she received a much different answer.

Read the original answer to the same question (1897)

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