It is a magical time of year, the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The spirit of the season surrounds us and springs from numerous sights and sounds: the downtown village streets decorated for the holiday, the colorful and sometimes twinkling lights on houses, the pine wreaths and boughs on house fronts, cars driving by with Christmas trees strapped to the roofs, the clang of the Salvation Army bell, the Grinch and Rudolph and Buddy the elf Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB gun on television — and Santa Claus.
Of course Santa Claus is real. We cannot conceive of a world without him. He is more than just a man who brings toys; he is the embodiment of the spirit of Christmas for so many people. Santa is love, joy, generosity, kindness and magic all rolled into one. Santa is one of the great men of world history.
The lineage of Santa Claus, so far as we know, goes back 700 years to Saint Nicholas, patron saint of children. But the Santa we know and love today was not fully known until the early nineteenth-century America.
An 1821 book contains an anonymous poem titled, “Old Santeclaus,” which describes an old man on a reindeer sleigh, bringing presents to children. But it was the publication of the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” better known today as “The Night Before Christmas,” by Clement Clarke Moore, on Dec. 23, 1823, in the Troy, New York, Sentinel, that truly introduced that jolly old elf to us.
The cartoonist Thomas Nast then showed the world Santa’s image in newspaper images starting in the 1860s.
We understand that sometimes the world can become cynical, and at times people doubt that Santa can truly exist. So we have decided in this issue to reprint not only the iconic poem, “The Night Before Christmas,” but also one of the greatest editorials ever written in journalism, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” first published in the New York Sun newspaper in 1897.
Both of these pieces are, we believe, essential reading for everyone this time of year. The New York Sun editorial, in particular, says all that should be said about the truth of Santa Claus. But don’t just read these two selections for yourself; gather your family, gather your friends, sit together by the fire or at the table and read it out loud, together.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.