by Shanon Weaver
Here we are again, my friends. Another holiday season. It seems to arrive earlier every year, doesn’t it? Wasn’t Halloween just last week? Wasn’t Thanksgiving just about an hour ago?!
Timing aside, amidst the flurry of shopping, decorating, and festive gatherings – not to mention a world full of tragically unfortunate events – it's easy to lose sight of what the holidays are all about. Of course, there are many, many different holidays celebrated by many, many different faiths toward the end of every year, but they all have similar messages: peace, togetherness, giving, and kindness, to name just a few. I think can probably all agree the world needs more of each, but let’s focus on kindness for today, shall we? Specifically, the kindness found in the simple act of a question answered famously.
I’ve always held a special place for Francis P. Church’s immortal editorial, Is There a Santa Claus?
You likely know this piece better by the line that answers the question – Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
Church was an editor for the long-defunct newspaper, the New York Sun. In the late summer of 1897, a young girl named Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the Sun asking the now-iconic question, as she had friends who teased her for believing.
“Virginia, your little friends are wrong,” the piece begins. “They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.”
Church took the opportunity to answer. Under no obligation, he practiced kindness and ended up a holiday legend, capturing the magic of Christmas beyond materialism and embracing the heart of the season. His eloquent and compassionate response not only reassured Virginia of the existence of “Jolly ol’ St. Nick,” but also became a testament to the enduring power of…you guessed it…kindness.
Church's letter emphasizes the importance of belief as well – not just in the man with the broad face and the little round belly, but in the intangible qualities that make Christmas special. While we’re all caught up in a whirlwind of holiday chaos, Church's words remind us that the true magic of Christmas lies in the simple acts of kindness that connect us all.
It’s a universal language, and during the Christmas season kindness takes on a special significance. Whether it's the generosity of spirit that lets someone hold the door for a wayward shopper piled head-high with shopping bags, or simply a heartfelt smile exchanged between strangers on the street, even the smallest kindnesses embody the essence of Christmas. Church's letter encourages us to embrace the innate goodness within ourselves and extend it to others, fostering a sense of unity and goodwill…again, things we could all use a little more of.
Perhaps obviously, the world is quite a bit different today than it was in 1897 (funny how things tend to change over a century-and-a-quarter). Still, the core message of Church's letter remains relevant. In a time when the holiday season is easily overshadowed by consumerism and the pursuit of perfection, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus serves as a stark reminder of how easy it is to just be nice to each another. It really is!
Kindness, as Church expressed, transcends the tangible. It's the selfless act of giving without expectation, genuine concern for others, and the ability to see magic in the mundane. As we navigate this holiday season, it's crucial to remember that the most meaningful gifts don't come wrapped in shiny paper and adorned with bows but are found in the connections we forge and the kindness we share.
With that in mind, let’s not forget the importance of cultivating a childlike wonder and curiosity about the world. These days it’s easier than ever to become jaded and cynical, losing sight of the all the wonder that surrounds us. As Church’s letter makes clear, the innocence of a child's belief in Santa Claus mirrors the purity of heart that defines the Christmas spirit. By embracing this, we open ourselves up to the joy and magic that Christmas has to offer.
As we reflect on the legacy of Yes, Virginia…let‘s “walk the walk and talk the talk” that Church so eloquently championed. In an often harsh and unforgiving world, the holiday season gives us a chance to stop, reflect, and rekindle the flame of compassion within us all.
t’s not be “affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.” Let’s be kind. By embracing kindness, love, generosity, and belief in the goodness of others, we can make these holidays truly magical for ourselves and those around us.