As a kid I loved seeing anything with my name on it. As a kid living in the US with the same name as one of the fifty states, that happened pretty often, much to my delight.
My grandmother named my mom (my namesake) Virginia Marie, after the Virgin Mary (I just heard some of you drop dead), so I heard my name a lot growing up in the Catholic church. Sometimes the first six letters translated to nicknames at school that, thinking back now, I should have been happy to be called versus the alternative. I also dreamed of going to the University of Virginia for no reason other than the name (but: Hotty Toddy, y’all), and I even managed to snag a boy from Virginia to marry.
But my favorite Virginia-ism comes up around the holidays every year: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” This editorial article by Francis Pharcellus Church in the The New York Sun has managed to survive for 121 years, becoming history’s most reprinted newspaper editorial, so non-Virginias must love it too. (If you haven’t read it, stop now and read it here.)
Against all odds I preserved my own belief in Santa Claus all the way up until the sixth grade. Maybe that’s due to the fact that I was the youngest, with two older brothers who still put reindeer food on our roof for me when they were in high school, or maybe it’s because I was stubbornly clueless in my make-believe world. Either way, my poor parents.
I found out the truth in art class. Two boys in my class were making fun of a younger kid who “still believed in Santa Claus,” and everyone was howling at the absurdity. I tested the rumors that Christmas. I left a secret gift for Santa Claus under the tree when no one was looking, an empty wrapping paper roll, or a telescope if you are not imaginatively blind. The gift was still there the next day–sinking the last bits of hope I held in my little heart. I don’t remember if there were tears or anger, but I do remember that it felt like I lost something that day.
A few years later, I came across the old New York Sun article, and as I read each word, my hope was restored. There is a “Santa Claus,” and this year I can prove it to you.
As you probably already know from the onslaught of social media posts (I apologize, there is just no better way), Side Hustle started a new holiday tradition this year. Side Hustle Holidays was created as a way to give back to others this holiday season, while at the same time using the gifts and talents we promote each day on our site.
Like most ideas of mine, it started as a little thought jotted down in a notebook. It quickly grew to include 35 women who donated their time and talents to create an amazing selection of raffle prizes valued at $4,000. This display of generosity spread to those who chose to make a financial donation in honor of a charity organization close to their heart in order to enter the raffle contest. Twenty-five incredible charities were nominated for a chance to win all of the proceeds from the raffle. Over one month we were able to raise $1,023 together.
Without knowing whether or not your charity would be chosen to be the recipient, you donated anyways, you gave anyways, regardless of the who, the what, the when, the where. That’s love, people. That’s generosity. That’s sowing peace. That’s bringing tidings of comfort and joy. That’s Santa Claus. No red hat, no reindeers, no sleigh, but it doesn’t matter. It’s the same thing.
As the author of the article in The Sun wrote, “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…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…Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”
Maybe you’re eight years old, and Santa Claus is still very much so a chubby man in a red suit with a twinkle in his eye and an incredibly fast team of flying reindeer pulling a sleigh full of gifts for every single child in the world. Or maybe you’re eighty years old, and Santa Claus is simply your grandchildren sitting around your feet sharing generations of love and family.
As long as love and generosity and peace are the gifts, does it matter who is doing the giving? Does it matter if it’s a red suit or the gap toothed-grin of a child or a donation from a stranger to someone in need? It doesn’t. You’ve all shown me this.
Today I wrote a check for $1,023 to RedZone Ministries, the winner of the first annual Side Hustle Holidays Raffles for Charity. RedZone Ministries is a nonprofit in Memphis, Tennessee, dedicated to supporting, protecting, and empowering at-risk youth in underserved areas of the city. The people at RedZone Ministries are literally making the future a better place, and with the generous donations that you gave, we are all able to play a part in that good work. What an incredible gift.
This new year I hope you’re able to bring a little Santa Claus with you everywhere you go, to every person you meet. Whether it’s March or May or December, if we look closely, if we let the lines blur a little bit, we will hear that jolly laugh and see those twinkling eyes and feel the warmth and joy and love of Santa Claus in those around us.
Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! Happy New Year! Happy love, peace, joy, generosity time! Whatever you call it, BE it this year. You already have been to me.