Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
So said the New York Sun in 1897, and it has warmed a lot of hearts ever since. In fact, that phrase and the opinion piece in which it appeared may be the most famous and most read newspaper editorial ever.
The trouble is, little Virginia grew up. She probably had kids who had kids who had kids who had kids who in the 21st century may have a hard time finding a Santa lap on which to sit.
This story from the Huffington Post says there are a lot of unemployed Santas this season. Despite a reduction in the official unemployment rate to 7.7 percent, and despite an increase in seasonal hiring at some major retailers, jolly ol’ Saint Nick stands a good chance of finding himself in an unemployment line.
“There’s no question about it, the number of Santas out there looking for work has grown,” Jennifer Andrews, headmaster of the Santa School in Calgary, Alberta, which supplies Santas to stores and malls in the U.S. and around the world, told MarketWatch. “And there’s not a lot of room for untrained Santas.”
Yes, you read right. Santa School. Like a lot of other schools, they require students to have a laptop.
Yet, even in the best of times being a Santa wasn’t always the easy money some people might have expected it to be.
Years ago, as a cub reporter in Las Vegas, one of my first stories was to cover a Santa who was marching in front of a local mall with a sign claiming mall owners were unfair. The mall insisted the Santa made a little girl cry. The Santa said the mall had it out for him, and that crying kids are just a part of the job. He said he never said or did anything out of character or that would have needlessly provoked the kid.
He said; they said; and ultimately I was told to stop covering the story because it was hurting holiday ad sales.
The message I got is that being Santa is no cushy gig, no matter how many cushions one may use as stuffing. But then, anyone who has watched Miracle on 34th Street knows that.
And the message I’m getting today is that, when profits are at stake, Santa may be the first one to go.
That’s bad news for all the little Virginias out there — and there always are new little Virginias, thank heavens.
But then, the whole point of that editorial 115 years ago was to tell a little girl from the upper West Side of Manhattan that Santa is real even though you can’t see him.
“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,” it said.
I always thought that message must be confusing for little children who then go out and see multiple Santas dotting the retail landscape. This year, apparently, not so much.