Yes, San Antonio, There is a Santa Claus
By Brandee Perez
In a now infamous 1897 letter to the New York Sun newspaper, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked, “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?”
More than a century later, we ponder this same question searching for a spark of hope after a devastating year and half.
And just as the New York Sun so eloquently responded to Virginia, Santa “lives, and he lives forever,” we believe he certainly lives in the hearts and minds of so many San Antonians — especially amongst our most vulnerable families.
The San Antonio Housing Authority is transforming into the North Pole this year, and Santa is granting special requests for children and elderly receiving housing assistance. They are some of the most economically distressed members of our community.
While trendy toys and gadgets are the most in-demand gift items this season, one SAHA child, with a gentle innocence, is asking Santa for a pair of shoes while another is simply asking for “anything.”
An elderly resident is wishing for Santa to deliver a set of twin bed sheets that will help him sleep comfortably each night. Another hopes Santa will leave some groceries to feed her through the holiday season. Other Santa wish items being requested range from laundry detergent to household cleaning supplies.
These are just a few examples of the hundreds of wishes being sent to St. Nick from SAHA families.
This holiday season will undoubtedly be one of Santa’s busiest years yet. He is recruiting warm hearts to bring holiday cheer across our city. If you would like to donate or host a gift collection, join Santa’s San Antonio-based team at saha.org/northpole.
For those who believe, young and older, we are glad to reprint the New York Sun’s celebrated response to O’Hanlon, which today still serves as a testament to the joy and magic of the holiday season.
NEW YORK SUN EDITORIAL (1897)
“VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. 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.
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.”
Brandee Perez is SAHA’s Chief Operating Officer, leading the Federal Housing Programs Department, Community Development Initiatives Department and the Safety and Security Department, two of which are the agency’s largest departments. Under this portfolio, she oversees a staff of nearly 400 and assists in managing a budget of nearly $200 million