Thursday, 26 December 2002

a lovely article that Straits Times columnist David Kraal wrote four years ago. The core message cuts across all lines of race and religion, colour and creed. It is a message of the wonder of life...

The Straits Times, December 2, 1998.

Yes, Auréa, there is a Santa Claus

I SPOKE on the telephone to my favourite little girl in all the world three nights ago.

Her voice filled with the sparkle of good cheer: "Our Christmas tree is up and it's so tall it touches the sky. The lights are so bright, just like the stars in Singapore." Then she laughed a laugh of complete joy.

Sticking to the festive theme, I asked: "Has mummy gone out and bought you your Christmas presents?"

There was no pause from the Paris end when the six-year-old set about correcting the ignorance of age with controlled patience: "Grandpa, grandpa, it is Santa who brings me my Christmas presents, not mummy."

I was utterly mortified; devastated by my own ignorance. I could only blurt out: "Of course, my darling Auréa, Santa will be bringing you your presents."

She laughed again, happy that she had put me right about Christmas gifts and where they really came from.

We chatted about this and that for a few more minutes, then she said she had to go, something about it being time to feed Gaston, her cat.

I told her I would ring her up to wish her a Merry Christmas and I sadly hung up the phone.

I sat in my chair for minutes on end, pondering my mistake. How could I, of all people, forget the reality of Christmas? How could I, a journalist all my life, forget that unforgettable journalistic landmark dedicated to Santa Claus?

Francis Church, the editor of The Sun newspaper in New York, wrote an editorial, published on September 21, 1897, in answer to a letter. It was headlined (strong contender for the most famous headline of all time!): Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

"We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of The Sun:

Dear Editor,
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?
Virginia O'Hanlon.

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, Virginia, 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 external 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 you 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 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, 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 lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

I want so much to tell you, my dear Auréa, that I do know who brings you those Christmas presents.

I thought long about how I could make up for my blunder. I decided that try as I might, my journalistic words would be no match for the words written by another journalist just over 100 years ago.

Yes, Auréa, as Mr French says so eloquently, there is a Santa Claus. Please forgive your old grandpa for his festive folly. One tends to get a little forgetful with age, even when it comes to the most important things in life. More is the pity.


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