Secular Santa part of Christmas spirit

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Merry Christmas!
At Thanksgiving, we give thanks.
At Christmas, we give gifts – and get thanks.
Thanksgiving is not a religious holiday.

Christmas is a religious holiday. But it’s also a very secular holiday filled with non-religious traditions.
Christmas, for some, wouldn’t be Christmas without this gift that Clement Moore wrote for his children in 1822
T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, –not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
Later in Clement Moore’s poem he described St. Nick as:

His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook, when he laughed like a bowlful of jelly

But, the Santa Claus that we now see was first pictured best in 1863 by artist Thomas Nast in the magazine Harper’s Weekly. Nast dressed Santa in red, gave him a home at the North Pole, and continued to depict Santa in the magazine for 23 years.

Of course, there were some doubters.

Dear Editor:
I am 8 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.

That doubt brought about the famous “Letter to Virginia” in 1897:

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticismof 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 highestbeauty 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. …

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.

The letter was unsigned.

It was first published in 1897 and it deserves to be re-published today.

Chelle Delaney is the associate publisher of the Quay County Sun. Contact her at 461-1952 or by email at:
chelle_delaney@link.freedom.com