Yes Virginia
Screengrab via YouTube

Sam Elliott Reading 'Yes, Virginia' in 'Prancer' Gets Us in the Holiday Spirit

The Christmas holiday has so many classic feel good movies. Not only do they embrace the meaning of the season, but they can remind those going through a hard time that everything will be okay. One of those tearjerker films is the 1989 Christmas classic, Prancer.

The film follows 8-year-old Jessica Riggs who lives with her father and brother on their family apple farm. Her mother has passed away, and the farm is struggling. So much is going on that her father, played by Sam Elliott, has not only lost his Christmas spirit but his ability to be a good father.

Jessica finds an injured reindeer and decides it has to be Prancer, from Santa's lineup. Nursing the reindeer back to health revitalizes multiple people in town, including her suffering father. One of the best scenes in the movie is towards the end when Jessica is in her room with her father. Tons of people from the town have gathered outside to support her returning Prancer to Santa Claus, but she isn't sure she believes anymore. Her father (who had shamed her for still believing) sits her down and reads her a special passage that is guaranteed to bring you to tears.

Thanks to the famous editorial published in The New York Sun in 1897 called "Is There a Santa Claus?," "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" has become a classic quote over the years. Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon (like Jessica in the film) asked her father if there was a Santa Claus. Living in New York City, he suggested she write to the local newspaper to find out. One of The Sun's editors, Francis Pharcellus Church, responded with philosophical reasoning behind why there is a Santa.

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In the film, Elliott reads the last two paragraphs of the newspaper editorial as they are his daughter's favorite. But the entire passage is magical.

Years later, Virginia's obituary was printed in The New York Times. A group of friends gathered together and published Yes Virginiaa children's book illustrating the editorial.

Read the classic editorial for yourself below. Hopefully it touches you the way it did the Riggs family in Prancer. The passage proves that believing in the spirit of Santa serves more than just the minds of children.

Virginia's Letter:

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?



The Full "Yes, Virginia" Editorial:

"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."

This story originally ran on Dec. 9, 2019.

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