Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

13 December, 2009

YES VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS, AND INCIDENTALLY DO YOU KNOW THE REAL REASON FOR THE SEASON?


Nativity scene from my Christmas collection.


Virginia O'Hanlon

I'm giving in to an impulse to write about Christmas -- Santa Claus, the-kid-in-me and Jesus.  Kind of makes sense, doesn't it?  After all, that's what this time of year is all about.
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I love everything about the celebration of Christmas, especially the fellowship, the stories handed down from generations past and the wonderfully moving carols.  I look forward to the smells and tastes of the season too.  Who doesn't?
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It is traditional for me at this time of year to blow the dust off Clement C. Moore's A Visit from St. Nicholas (commonly known as 'Twas The Night Before Christmas) written in 1822.  I absorb each line of the poem with the enthusiasm and imagination of a child hearing the story for the first time.  Many common Christmas traditions that we encorporate into our current-day celebrations have been derived from the magic of the 'Twas the Night Before tale.
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When I was cast in the role of Santa Claus a lifetime ago, I memorized the name of all his reindeer and it came in handy on several ocasions when challenging young minds put me to the test.
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Equally fascinating to me is A Christmas Carol written by the famous Charles Dickens in 1843.  Who can forget Ebeneezer Scrooge's "Bah Humbug" and the meaningful closing line uttered by Tiny Tim: "God bless us, everyone!?"  Each year as I assemble my Heritage Village Collection (see Wrights Lane above) I re-live every scene created by Dickens in his masterpiece more than 150 years ago.
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Another must-visit literary gem for me is the now famous Yes Virginia... editorial published in the New York Sun newspaper in 1897.  The the editorial response to a letter written by eight-year-old Virginia O`Hanlon has become history`s most reprinted newspaper editorial.
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Young Virginia took great pains with her childish scrawl to write a brief letter to the popular newspaper, explaining that her friends had been telling her that there was no Santa.  Francis Pharcellus Church (photo, right), a prominent editor and Civil War correspondent, answered the little girl in an editorial, telling her that her friends were wrong.  "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give your life its highest beauty and joy," Church wrote.  "No Santa!  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 children."
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It is interesting to note that Virginia O'Hanlon went on to graduate with a masters degree from Columbia University and in 1921 began a teaching career, later becoming a principal in the New York City school system and eventually retiring after 47 years as an educator.  Throughout her life she received a steady stream of mail about her Santa Claus letter, and to each reply she attached an attractive printed copy of the Church editorial.  Virginia O'Hanlon Douglas died at the age of 81 in 1971.
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I often wonder how Church, the son of a Baptist minister, would have responded if Virginia had asked "Why do we celebrate Christmas?"  Perhaps he would have written:
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"Christmas, Virginia, is a very significant celebration of joy.  It is not necessarily about fairy lights and Santa Claus, although this is part of the celebration.  It is also not about who can spend the most on gifts, or who gets what.  It is, however, about a very special birthday.
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"About three thousand years ago, God decided that he loved us so much that He wanted to be with us on earth, so He came to us through the person of a baby that was born in a town called Bethlehem.  That baby was named Jesus and in his short 33 years on earth he would significantly change the way people viewed life.  
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"Jesus Christ, as he was to become known, was God's wonderful gift to us.  Jesus' love for us was so great that He too wanted us to know that we can be forgiven for our sins and spend eternity with Him in Heaven.  In order to make that happen, He gave Himself to us on a cross.
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"So because He loved us so much, and because He gave his life for us, we owe it to Him to celebrate the day of His birth and that is what Christmas is all about.  Take away all the tinsel, the turkey and the presents.  Take way the tree, your parents' credit cards and the shopping malls, and what you have left is worth more than all of those combined...You have the real reason for the birthday celebration which cannot be changed or replaced by our many man made traditions.  We honour Jesus by being good, honest, kind and faithful in our own lives just like Him.
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"Now, Virginia, you know the real reason for us to celebrate every year on the 25th day of December."
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At least that is the way in which I hope Church would have responded, only better.  Regardless, I feel that Virginia died knowing that Jesus loved her, just as He does you and I.  We have a lot to celebrate again this year!

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