In 1897, a little girl wrote to the New York Sun, seeking an answer to a question many children have asked over the years: Does Santa exist?
In a response that has become an oft-quoted classic and perhaps the most reprinted newspaper editorial, Francis Pharcellus Church assured the eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon that there was, indeed, a Santa Claus.
If the famous response were to be written today, it might go something like this:
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus... Santa is real and you can talk to him.”
On moving to Canada, I was delighted to discover kids could write to Santa at the North Pole (postal code HO HO HO) and Santa’s elves (postal volunteers!) would actually write back.
Well, things have changed since then.
Now young parents have Santa on speed dial and an app allows one to call Santa and leave a message after the sleigh bells.
An actual voice calls back, a voice that sounds exactly as you would imagine jolly old Santa would sound like.
The amazing part is that it’s not an automated response in the sense it is not one generic Ho! Ho! Ho! fits all, but can be tailored.
So one can call Santa and set it up for him to call back at a specific time and based on the info provided, Santa knows the child’s name, his age, that he was not well but because he took his meds like a good boy he is on the nice list, and so on.
Last year, I witnessed a little one’s face light up when he was talking to Santa. It was pure magic.
So yes, Santa is real and he is to be found not in expensive toys, but in photo ops with the big man at the mall, in the excitement of a Santa parade. And the magic of the season, the hope and the joy, in a simple nativity pageant in the park on a snowy night.
Last year, families packed the amphitheatre at Fairy Lake Gardens in Newmarket, Ontario. The adults armed with mugs of coffee and hot chocolate, the kids happy to roll in the snow and make snow angels.
And then a hush descended as congregants of a church retold a timeless story, dressed in costume and assisted ably by goats, a llama and a donkey.
“I didn’t know donkeys were real,” a child could be heard whispering in awe.
And a grandma telling the little girl skipping by her side as everyone was walking out after the pageant, that she had been coming here since the girl’s mommy and aunts were little girls.
What could be more real than that timeless moment? Merry Christmas!
SHAGORIKA EASWAR Editor