The first door of the TRP Advent calendar has opened! From today on there is a little surprise every day to sweeten the time before Christmas. Unfortunately we cannot hold a Christmas party this year due to the ongoing Corona Pandemic. This hurts us a lot, because a community that cannot come together has a hard time these days.
For this reason, with our Advent calendar we want to lighten up the grey winter days until Christmas Eve and give a little joy to some people - and not only for our members, friends and guests, but for everyone!
So it's worth stopping by every day!
The Christmas story of little Virginia
We begin with a Christmas story that is now over 120 years old. At that time, eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon from New York wrote the following letter to the daily newspaper "Sun":
"I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says "If you see it in the Sun it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?"
A small letter with big consequences - The heartwarming answer of the "Sun
The then editor-in-chief of the Sun, Francis P. Church, responded personally. On the front page of the Sun:
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, 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, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Viriginia, 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. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus!
You might as well not 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 they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
Merry Christmas, Virginia.
Your Francis P. Church
A Christmas story that was printed over and over again
The correspondence between Virginia O'Hanlon and Francis P. Church dates back to 1897 and was printed on the front page every year at Christmas time for half a century until the "Sun" was discontinued in 1950. Thus, the Virginia letter became the most popular Christmas story in the States at that time.
How did the letter from little Virginia come about?
36 years after her letter appeared in the newspaper, Virginia O'Hanlon recounted how it had come about:
"Of course I believed in Santa Claus, he had never disappointed me before. But when less happy little boys and girls said there was no Santa Claus, doubts grew in me. I asked my father, and he was a bit evasive on the subject. It was common in our family to write to the Sun's "Question and Answer" column when there was uncertainty about the pronunciation of a word or doubts about historical facts. Father always said, "If it's in the Sun, it's true" - and that ended every dispute. "Well I'll just write to the Sun and find out the real truth," I said to Father. He replied, "Go ahead, Virginia. I'm sure the Sun will give you the right answer, as it always does."
The father was certainly not aware at that time that the letter from his daughter Virginia would make a nice Christmas story.
The editor of the New York Sun took Virginia's letter very seriously
So it was that the little girl sent this letter. It was forwarded to the editor Francis Church. He had already completed 20 years of service with the New York Sun. He was the son of a Baptist pastor and his motto was: "Strive to keep your spirit free from hypocrisy and hypocrisy. When the commentary had to address controversial issues, especially theological ones, Church was usually entrusted with this task. Now he held a letter from a little girl in his hand and knew immediately that there was no way around the question. He had to answer truthfully and wrote one of the most remarkable commentaries in newspaper history. This is how the Christmas story of little Virginia became known.
What became of the life of Virginia O'Hanlon?
Virginia became a teacher and later principal of a municipal New York school. Throughout her life, she constantly received mail for her Santa Claus letter.
The New York radio station WNYC recorded an interview with Virginia in 1937, in which it went into the Christmas story in more detail: “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”
Virginia O'Hanlon finally died on May 13, 1971 at the age of 81.