This being Christmas Day I don't expect anyone to be reading this and so I'm counting on the fact that non-existent readers will grant me the indulgence of re-purposing an old essay on existence for my post.
Occasionally, The Morning News asks all its contributors to join in some group project, and in 2002 one of these joints had a Christmas theme. A reader had written in to TMN's "Non-Expert" with the question "Does Santa Claus exist?" Nine of us responded with stories both real and imagined and the consensus, apparently, was yes. My own contribution, which I am pasting below, seems now like a cynical thing to be reprinting on Christmas Day, but I find it impossible to commit anything remotely sentimental to print, even though in real life I'm a cheeseball doofus who will weep at the most obviously manipulative Hollywood dreck. Last evening my son and I were checking NORAD'S Santa Tracker every fifteen minutes. You get a special holiday shiver when your five-year-old yells across the room, "Daddy! Santa's headed for the Azores!"
And follow that link and read the other contributions. Many of those TMN writers from seven years back have become acclaimed and bestselling authors, yet all of them are still associated with the terrific TMN.
Date: September 22, 1897
Thank you for responding to my letter in your newspaper. However, I don’t think it can be said that you have answered my question. You provided an assortment of Classical platitudes about truth and knowledge, but never specifically addressed the issue of whether a fat man in a red suit comes down my chimney on Christmas Eve, or if Papa just buys me dolls at a store near his office. Please clarify.
Also, do you think the assassination of Prime Minister Canovas might eventually lead to war with Spain?
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street
Date: September 24, 1897
Why little girl, I thought I had been unambiguous on this point: Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as surely as a father’s love for his daughter, as surely as beauty is found in the carefree and fantastical play of a child. If learned skeptics numbering 100 times 1000 petitioned me for 20 days times seven they could not convince me otherwise. Just because we do not see something with our own eyes, this does not mean it cannot exist. Dear, this is the essence of faith. You don’t question whether faeries exist; why they live in your very garden, I suspect! Certainly the same mystical plane which faeries inhabit could be infused with the generosity of spirit we call Santa Claus, could it not?
Francis Pharcellus Church
Editor, New York Sun
Date: September 29, 1897
Your arguments have been so riddled with logical fallacies I don’t know where to begin: Affirming the consequent, subverted support, petitio principii—possibly the fallacy of the undistributed middle. This is America in 1897, and yet you act as if an eight-year-old has not by now taken three semesters of rhetoric! I asked a very simple question: ‘Is there a Santa Claus?’ In return, I have been (repeatedly) talked around, condescended to, and ignored.
Must I take my inquiry to the New York Journal? I understand Mr. Hearst gives every consideration to young girls. For the final time, yes or no? Is there a Santa Claus?
Also, 100 times 1000 equals 100,000. Seriously, whom are you trying to impress?
Date: October 5, 1897
Sigh. All right. The economy is in the water closet, the country’s headed for war, and (thanks to our overcrowded asylums) McKinley will be lucky if he makes it to the next election without some lunatic putting a bullet in his head. In fact, your beloved William Hearst might very well do the job himself. The lie known as Santa is a variation on an ancient European myth used to manipulate the behavior of incorrigible children. In a few years time his image will be wholly appropriated by the Coca-Cola beverage company as part of its 100-year plan to become the most powerful political, social, and commercial organization on the planet. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, Santa will be remembered as a symbol of unchecked capitalism, which devoured the Earth’s natural resources and returned mankind to a feral, Neolithic state. In this post-apocalyptic wasteland, devolved tribes of men and apes will fight each other with the bones of their own dead over precious reserves of fresh water, and they will live in fear of the bearded and apple-cheeked hell-deity they believe delivered such crushing misfortune to their protruding brows.
No Santa Claus, Virginia? I wish.
Francis Pharcellus Church
Editor, New York Sun
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