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Yes, Virginia - 66 years later

The Story


It's probably the most famous letter to the editor of all time. In 1897, young Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the New York Sun and wanted to know if there really was a Santa Claus. The letter, coupled with the response in which editorial writer Francis Church assured the little girl that Santa Claus indeed existed, became a sentimental favourite. Sixty-six years later, CBC Radio interviews Virginia, who is now a grandmother of seven. In his reply, Church deftly defers the harsh realities of the world and assures Virginia that Santa Claus exists "as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist." In this interview, Virginia talks about how the letter changed her life and her faith in Santa Claus. "The older I grow," she says, "the more I realize what a perfect philosophy it is for life."

Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: Dec. 24, 1963
Guest(s): Virginia Douglas (nee O’Hanlon)
Host: Hector MacFayden
Duration: 3:54
Photo: CBC Still Photo Collection, Toronto

Did You know?


• Francis Church's editorial, "Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus," was published in the New York Sun in 1897. It was reprinted every year until the paper folded in 1949.

 

• Francis Church was the lead editorial writer for the New York Sun. Previously, he had covered the Civil War for the New York Times. Following his death in 1906, it was revealed that it was he who had written the reply to Virginia O'Hanlon's letter.

• Virginia O'Hanlon was eight years old when she penned the now famous letter to the editor. The little girl from New York City had a crisis of faith when some of her school friends told her that Santa Claus didn't exist. O'Hanlon asked her father and he recommended that she write to the New York Sun to seek an answer.

 

• O'Hanlon became a New York City teacher and principal. She died on May 13, 1971 at the age of 81.

 


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