Yes, Virginia (2021) – Dr. James Emery White Christian Blog


In 1897, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon, an assistant coroner on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, was questioned by his then eight-year-old daughter, Virginia, if Santa Claus really existed. He suggested that she write The sunthen a major New York newspaper because “If you see it in The sunit is so.”

One of the newspaper’s editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, responded in an op-ed titled “Is There a Santa Claus?” More than a century later, it is the most reprinted editorial of any English-language newspaper. Here’s a taste of what he wrote:

“Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as surely as love, generosity and devotion exist, and you know they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! The world would be bleak if there was There would be no Santa Claus It would be as bleak as if there were no Virginia There would be no childish faith, no poetry, no romance to make this existence bearable. We would have no enjoyment, except in the senses and the sight. The light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished…

“No to Santa Claus!” Thank God ! he lives, and he lives forever. In a thousand years, Virginie, what am I saying, ten times in ten thousand years, he will continue to delight the heart of childhood.

If I had been given the chance, I would have answered the same thing, but with the same Following specificity.

More than a few parents are wondering whether to pass on the story of Santa Claus and all the traditions that come with it. Especially those who fear that if they tell their children about Santa Claus and eventually have to tell their children the secret, they will undermine their child’s trust in other things that have been told to them.

Like the existence of God.

My wife and I have introduced our children to Santa Claus and have fully embraced the tradition in our home. But – and this is very important – we made sure to tell them the real story of Santa Claus, which a lot of people don’t.

In the beginning, before the big reveal, we made it clear that Santa Claus did what he did out of love for Jesus and to honor his birthday. And at the time of the big reveal, we told them the “secret” in light of the fuller story of Santa Claus and his love for Jesus, all rooted in history and facts.

There was no existential spiritual crisis. On the contrary, it resulted in a deeper faith. They discovered that there really was a Santa Claus who really gave presents at Christmas, and what the parents did was in memory of Santa Claus to keep his mind and heart for Christ and for the children alive.

Saint Nicholas was a real historical figure who lived in Turkey and died around the year 350. He was a very active leader in the church and was part of the great Council of Nicaea in 325, which was one of the most important Christian councils throughout history.

Nicolas was known for his holiness and his passion for Christ. He was tortured and imprisoned for his faith under Emperor Diocletian. He gave almost all of his money to the poor, and his love for children was incredibly real.

One of the stories of her life that we know of involved three poor girls. At that time, the only way for girls to have a future with a husband was to have a dowry. A dowry was money that a father could provide so that if someone married his daughter, she could bring money to the wedding. A girl without a dowry would probably never marry and would often face the worst situations because she had no other way to fend for herself.

This father had no dowry and was preparing to deliver his three daughters to prostitution. Nicholas found out, and he went one night and took three bags of gold and threw them into the house through some sort of chimney or opening in the house. He gave a bag of gold to each girl to serve as their dowry, so that all three could marry. It was because of this (and many other acts of charity towards children) that he became the patron saint of children.

Over time, this led to a tradition of children receiving gifts in her name. The problem was that the children had a hard time pronouncing his name because “St. Nicholas” has so many syllables. It quickly became “Sint Klaes” and later “Santa Claus” by the Dutch.

Simply put, St. Nicholas was a wonderful Christian – one of the true heroes of the faith – and everything about “Santa Claus” can and should be deeply spiritual in nature. Santa Claus isn’t the problem, it’s how we’ve stripped him of his holiness, his motivation and his story.

At the appropriate age, we told our children the fuller story of St. Nicholas and how we as parents kept it alive through Santa’s love for Jesus and for children. We even have a “Kneeling Santa” figurine as part of our home Christmas decoration that we’ve owned since before we even had kids. A “Kneeling Santa Claus” is a figurine of Santa Claus kneeling before the infant Jesus in the manger.

It is very dear to us.

When Susan and I dreamed of having children, while I was in college, we saw a limited edition “Kneeling Santa” ceramic in a store. We had never seen this depiction before, but it reflected what we wanted Christmas to be with our children in light of Santa’s traditions.

We didn’t have a lot of money, but as soon as we saw it, we knew we wanted to have it for our family. Still, it was over $100! For us, it might as well have been over $10,000. So we asked the store manager if we could somehow put it aside. Over the next six months, we made all the small payments we could until they came back to us.

Many years later – not to mention four children and now 12 grandchildren later – our “Kneeling Santa” is still a centerpiece of our home.


Because “Yes, Virginie, there is one.”

James Emery White

Editor’s note: This blog was first published in 2020. The Church and Culture team thought you might like to read it again this year.


“Yes, Virginie…” editorial of The New York SunDecember 21, 2012, read online.

Article image taken from The sun on Wikipedia shown here.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founder and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the assistant professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book After “I believe” is now available on Amazon or at your favorite bookstore. To take advantage of a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on TwitterFacebook and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.

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