Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Traditions

Do you have Christmas traditions that are special to just you and your family? Jim and I have lived away from family for almost twenty-three years, so we've made our own Christmas customs. For the ten years my father-in-law, Harry, lived with us, we shared those special moments with him.

Jim's family always celebrated on Christmas Eve, and, depending on my father's work schedule, we sometimes did. So, we open presents on Christmas Eve. I make appetizers, and about 7 p.m. or so, we start our celebration. But, before ever opening presents, we start with readings. What is more appropriate for two people who met and married in a library? Jim always reads the Nativity story from the Bible. I read, and cry over, The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry. And, Jim reads a special letter that combines faith, and hope, and magic. On Christmas Eve, I'll share one of our traditions with you, my friends from my blog. Here is "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus."

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis P. Church is the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history, appearing in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials.

"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, 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 may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all 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 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 he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.


Les said...

Merry Christmas to you and Jim, Lesa. Hope you have a lovely day!

Anonymous said...

Lesa, Hope you and Jim have a very Merry Christmas and a lovely holiday season!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Les! Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is filled with family, friends and love!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Kay! I know you don't have an easy life, so take care of yourself and your husband this holiday season.

(And, email me directly at if you're still planning to be in the Phoenix area when Louise Penny comes in January. We have semi-details of dinner with her.)

Merry Christmas, Kay.


Jim said...

Thank you honey, you know how much I love that letter.

Merry 25th Christmas!!!

Love Jim xoxox

Lesa said...

Yes, I do know how much you love it, and I learned to love it from you. Merry Christmas, Jim! They've been 25 beautiful holidays together.

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas, Lesa & Jim!
I've done 3 Holiday Readers Theaters this yesr, and I always include this piece as well as A Partridge in a Penitentiary. What great memories! Best wishes,

Patti O said...

I love this Letter! Since they've been using bits and pieces of it in the Macy's commercial (insert eye roll here), I've been wanting to reread it. Thanks! Merry Christmas!!!

Corey Wilde said...

Merry Christmas, Lesa. Thanks for reprinting the "Virginia" column. I read it every year, often in mid-summer.

Bridgette Mongeon said...

Thanks for sharing your Christmas Traditions. We recently created a podcast on this subject, in the Generations podcast “Three generations of Christian women share their thoughts about different issues and aspects of life.” We have some traditional ones like the Christmas pj,’s that are opened on Christmas eve, and Jesus’ birthday cake, retelling of the Christmas story. But there are some unusual ones like, Misfit Christmas, and upside down Christmas tree, a pickle in your tree, and some wonderful traditions to share with the kids. We also included some recipes. Thanks so much for sharing yours if you want to listen to ours here is the link to the podcast.

Blessings this Christmas and a wonderful New Year

Lesa said...

Oh, Maryellen!

I miss you, and doing Readers' Theater! I haven't read A Partridge in a Penitentary in a couple years. It's still my favorite one of our pieces.

Merry Christmas to you and Paul!


Lesa said...


Don't you hate it when they tear up a classic? I love this piece, and always will.

Merry Christmas to you and Ken! You're last one here. I hope Tucson treats you beautifully! At least I'll get to see you at dinner for Louise Penny.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Corey! I love "Virginia." Merry Christmas. I hope you have a wonderful holiday.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Bridgette. That sounds like a terrific podcast. I'm going to listen to it tomorrow. (Getting close to our Christmas Eve celebration right now.) Have a beautiful Christmas.