Nicking St. Nick



“No, Virginia, There is No Santa Claus”

{An updated version of the famous letter and editorial from New York Sun, 1897.  I first published this on the “Christmas Baby” blog in 2008.  In Britain, “nick” means to “steal”}

Virginia, your little friends are right.  They are children of an enlightened, more reasonable and scientific age.  They do not believe except they see.  They know that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their thoughtful minds.  All minds, Virginia, whether they be grown-up’s or children’s, must be thoughtful, awake, alive.  As wonderful as imagination is, we must think, reason and live in the only world we know, not live in a made-up, fantasy world.

In this great universe of ours, humans are insects, ants, dolphins, eagles and wolves in our opinions, creatures faced with the boundless world about us, as measured by our common intelligence capable of exploring the whole vast landscape of truth and knowledge.

No, we’re sorry to say, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus.  Yet there is, certainly, love and generosity and devotion; we know these abound and give life beauty and joy.  Alas!  How dreary would be the world if there was a Santa Claus!  It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.  There would be no need for reasoning, for literature, for honest debate, discovery and insight—activities that give meaning to our existence.  We would have no enjoyment, except in the intangible and irrational.  The light with which childhood and balanced education fill the world would be extinguished.

Believe in Santa Claus!  You might as well believe in fairies, miracles and heavens.  You might get your parents to hire people to watch all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, and when they don’t see him, what does that prove?  Nobody sees Santa Claus, because there is no Santa Claus.  The real things in the world are those that children and grown-ups can see, hear, touch, experience—like love, justice, compassion.  Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn?  Of course not, and that is pretty good evidence that they are not there.  There are so many wonders in the seen and seeable world!  You don’t even need to imagine them!  Nature is like one great holiday with bright and brilliant stories for a lifetime!

You can tear apart a baby’s rattle or an iPhone and see what makes them work inside, and in the same way our scientific investigation opens up so much that the weakest minds, no matter how many, could not invent an unseen, incredible world more interesting and credible.  Only irrational faith pushes aside the beauty, greatness and goodness right before our eyes, trying to get us to focus on something above and beyond.  This is glitter and flashing lights.  Is it real?  Ah, Virginia, in all this universe there is nothing less real and abiding (and the real North Pole is much more fascinating than an elf’s workshop!).

No Santa Claus!  Thankfully, he has never lived and never will.  A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten to the one millionth power years from now, his legend will continue to distract the glad hearts of children.  Simply remember, Virginia, it is in your own good and glad heart and your own inquisitive mind, where the greatest gift of any season resides.

2008 Chris Highland

Header photo:  The Jolly Guy we put on the mantle in this season.  I like the snowshoes … the cones on his toes … and the little flask of Holiday Cheer he carries.

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