Virginia O’Hanlon, Santa Claus Skeptic

Virginia O'Hanlon is famous as the young girl who wrote a letter to the New York Sun in 1897 asking if Santa Claus was real, prompting a reply from Francis P. Church, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." But you have to feel a bit sorry for O'Hanlon, because almost every year after that, until she died in 1971, reporters sought her out to do follow-ups to find out if she still believed in Santa Claus. It must have been frustrating to be asked the same question, year after year.

O'Hanlon as a young girl

O'Hanlon was always very gracious about the repetitive questioning, (seems like she was a very nice lady), and would say that of course she believed in Santa Claus — except for 1935 when she must have been in a dark mood, because in that year she came close to saying that she no longer believed. She told a reporter:

I still keep my faith in the ultimate kindness of human nature, but how can I, or anyone, believe in the Santa I knew as a child when today there is so much misery and suffering in the world?

If Santa lives today, he lives only in the childish joy of those he has made happy. How can he live in the crying hearts of those he has forsaken? Little children, such as I was, trust in Santa Claus as a miraculous munificence through which all things are made possible. There will be a tree, there will be loved ones about, gaiety and cherished toys that have been dreamt about for months.

Those whom Santa visits think of Christmas as a beautiful, sacred occasion which it should be — but today seldom is. But for every child tucked into bed Christmas night with his new toy, there are hundreds, no thousands, who huddle in ragged bed clothing sobbing in the night at a fate at best cruel.

In subsequent years she returned to giving simpler, more upbeat answers. The clip below shows her on the Perry Como show in 1960.

And here she is in 1966, looking slightly frazzled. Perhaps the questioning was finally getting to her.

     Posted By: Alex - Mon Dec 24, 2012
     Category: Customs | Holidays

Oh you must have been a beautiful baby (1897 photo), but oh baby, look at you now (1966 photo)!! 🐛
Posted by IA Boy on 12/24/12 at 08:13 AM
Age occurs most of the time, IA Boy.

For all the years my grandmother was alive, Santa hit every one of her grandkids' home.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 12/24/12 at 10:03 AM
Virginia in 1966, I swear thats the librarian ghost from the first Ghostbusters.
Posted by Kris Kringle on 12/25/12 at 05:31 AM
Yup, it was definitely pushing her over the edge. I wonder if she's the grandma who got run over by the reindeer?
Posted by TheCannyScot on 12/26/12 at 11:07 AM
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