Children should not be filled with lies because being young and impressionable they will incorporate the lies into their world view. Childhood memories are lost and the ideas and habits which were created at that time can not be removed when they are older and more rational. Children love stories of course and love to invent stories themselves and they realize that stories are just made up for the fun of doing it. However, sometimes a child is unsure if a story, like the Santa Claus myth, is just a story or a reality and asks their parent or other responsible adult if it is true. Some particularly popular and widely told stories, like Santa Claus or the Grinch, are difficult for children, with little world experience, to make proper judgements about. This is a case where the child should be told the simple truth. In this case, that it is a good story with lots of exciting twists and turns. That makes it a lot of fun to play with and make variations on the theme.
In 1897 an eight year old New York girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, was unsure of the Santa Claus story and asked what she thought was a responsible adult about its authenticity. “Was Santa real?” she asked, because her friends told her it was just a story that was made up to fool little kids. At age eight she should have been passed being duped by such a silly story, but apparently she wasn’t and so she was questioning an adult authority, Dr. Philip O’Hanlon. Here the plot thickens because here starts a trail of a cute story being turned into an ugly lie. If Virginia was unable to discriminate the Santa Claus story as just a story, she was sure to believe the school authority. The “Good Doctor” apparently feigned being unsure and suggested she write a letter to The New York Sun newspaper and he said “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” In other words if something is printed in a newspaper it is true, which someone with a Doctor’s title attached to their name must surly know is untrue. Therefore what he said was an intentional lie.
There are various types of lies. A white lie is supposed to ease the suffering of the recipient of the lie but telling this lie surely wouldn’t ease Virginia’s suffering. Believing it would certainly make her into a fool in the eyes of her friends and family and hurt her. So this wasn’t a white lie it was a black lie, and an evil black one at that, because she was encouraged to write a letter to The Sun and go public with her naive belief in the silly Santa story. It was a cute letter and so it and the reporters response to it got a few inches of copy in the editorial column and was probably considered by the paper to be a space filler.
When published it made Virginia the laughing-stock of the entire world for the rest of her life. The statement, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus is still known over a hundred years later. The professional newspaper writer knew he was making fun of Virginia and so what is thought of as cute is in fact a vicious act perpetrated against a little girl. It’s an evil lie that became a meme that will encourage many more people to tell this lie.
The Sun’s editor, Francis Pharcellus Church, wrote up an answer to Virginia’s question which some people later would claim explores the deeper issues of the Santa Claus myth but in fact it encourages unthinking belief in things which are untrue — it trains people to believe in lies. It promotes lying and it would be better for millions of people if it was forgotten an if it wasn’t still being promoted. And so I write this Grinchy sounding post aimed at thoughtless adults taking advantage of children.
By the adult world pumping lies into children’s minds they are destroying those children’s ability to think clearly and are corrupting their future. The author of this piece had a mind that was sick and polluted with anti-knowledge and he was infecting other people with his disease. It is a world view which is still infecting people and until it is confronted and shown for what it is — lies — it will persist. He concludes the article with his sweet sounding nonsense black lies:
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.
Having considered how destructive of a young persons mind that kind of thinking would be go and read the original article. And, please remember,
When a child asks you a question answer it truthfully.