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Yes Virginia on CBS

By Ally Matteodo

 

Yes, Virginia, a half-hour CBS special that aired December 11th (8:00 p.m. ET), represents a new holiday classic.  This CGI-animated special is based on a true story that happened in New York City at the brink of the 20th century.  A little girl named Virginia O’ Hanlon begins to doubt that Santa Claus really exists after a bully named Charlotte taunts her and her friends, calling them infantile for believing in Santa.  Forlorn, Virginia asks her father, Dr. Philip O’ Hanlon, for answers on Santa.  While in his workspace, Virginia notices the New York Sun, a prestigious newspaper of the times, and remembers her father’s frequently spoken mantra: “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.”  Virginia decides to write to the editor of the Sun, Francis Pharcellus Church, on the question of whether Santa Claus is real or not.  At first, Church throws the letter in the trash, refusing to publish such drivel.  The bully Charlotte discovers the letter in the trash outside the news building, and ads this to her arsenal of attacks against Santa.  When Virginia sees that Charlotte has her letter, she falls into a deep depression and cries herself to sleep that night.  Yet all is not lost: in the spirit of Christmas and Santa Virginia had broken open her piggy bank and bought a new coat for the “Scraggly Santa” that rings his bell outside in the streets trying to earn money for the poor.  While Charlotte derided Virginia and her little friend Ollie, she dropped the letter, and Scraggly Santa picked it up.  Scraggly Santa used to work for the Sun, and he brings the letter to the editor himself, pleading for the cynical editor to publish the letter.  After hearing these moving convictions, Church spends a night of soul-searching, staring out his window into the snow.  Then, in a burst of inspiration, he writes his response to Virginia’s letter; an answer that has become arguably the most famous newspaper editorial of all time, and from which this special gets its name.  Church writes back with certainty and clarity:  “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.” 

 

More than two hundred years later, our own age mirrors the turn-of-the-century in which Virginia lived.  The editor Church had previously worked as a war correspondent during the American Civil War, a time of much suffering and depravation which in turn society reflected with a lack of hope and faith.  Bullies like Charlotte are prevalent throughout society, and many of us remember our own beliefs attacked or criticized due to the lack of cold hard facts or proof.  This is a terrible feeling, and is part of why Virginia’s plight is so moving and elicits so much compassion from the viewer.  The editor’s response is truly inspired when he tells Virginia that her little friends are wrong to doubt: “They have been affected by the skepticism of 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.”  Those who feel the need to douse others’ hopes and beliefs deserve only to be pitied. We quickly see the reason for Charlotte’s acrimony in Yes, Virginia, as her own mother treats her coldly and scolds her for biting her nails.  My response echoes Church’s at the end of his moving editorial:  “Santa Claus 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.”           

        

 


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