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Christmas magic doesn’t have to fade

Nothing in life seems quite as bittersweet as watching your children transition from adolescence to the preteen years; the innocence of youth fading into the worldliness of young adulthood.

The emotions were certainly mixed last week when the great deception that was “Chippy” came to a less-than-glorious end.

For the last five years or so, our Elf on a Shelf flew in from the North Pole as an ambassador for St. Nick and to demonstrate new and creative ways to amuse my daughters every morning from December First right up to The Big Day.

His exploits challenged us each and every night to come up with something clever, but it was always worth it when we saw the pure joy on my children’s faces.

Now, the jig is up.

After lots of tears from the 8-year-old, (and lots of professing from the almost-11-year-old that she knew it was a big scam all along) Christmas joy has returned to my house. Chippy continues his mischievousness every night. Whether or not he returns next year is still to be determined.

That means it is probably only a matter of time before the conversation about the jolly fat man in red comes up, a talk that will offer more undeniable evidence my daughters are growing up too fast.

Believe it or not, one of the most timeless Christmas stories about the loss of innocence was actually printed in a newspaper.

In what is, without a doubt, the best response to a reader that has ever been written, a 121-year-old newspaper column embodies the magic of the Christmas holiday and remains as heartfelt and powerful as the day pen was put to paper. That is why I have tried to share it every year, in some format or another, for almost two decades.

Just like classic Christmas stories that include “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this one never gets old.

On Sept. 21, 1897, an 8-year-old girl named Virginia was losing her faith in the joys of Christmas and her childhood imagination was fading.

So, the child reached out to the New York Sun newspaper for guidance, prompting editor Francis P. Church to respond with the most reprinted newspaper editorial of all time, offering a beautiful answer that can make us all feel young again.

I am proud to start this tradition at The Advocate-Messenger and help keep the spirit of Christmas alive by sharing Virginia O’Hanlon’s letter and Church’s heartfelt response.

Dear Editor:

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Pap says, “If you see it in the Sun it’s so.”

Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon,

115 West Ninety-Fifth Street

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what 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 eternal 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 they 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 a baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world, which not the strongest men that ever lived could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural 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 he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10 thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Merry Christmas everyone!

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Advocate-Messenger and Danville Living magazine. He can be reached at (859) 469-6400 or by email at mike.caldwell@centralkynews.com.