I was looking for suitable material for the work blog and came across a piece called “Yes, Virginia, Online Shopping Is Going to Get Hotter This Season.”

What I discovered was that our intern, an undergraduate student, had NO idea what the “Yes, Virginia” reference meant. And I checked with another young adult and got the same blank response. Yes, I know this is a small sampling.

Talking to our interns has been useful. They know a LOT of things I’m only dimly aware of, but are oblivious to others. Watching JEOPARDY! sometimes has the same effect, as I miss the references to movies of 2017, but nail the questions that all three contestants in their twenties to forties fail to ring in on.

As I thought on it, I should not have been surprised by the pop cultural divide. I mean, “yes, Virginia” was a reference to something that happened over a century ago. With SO much information out there, this type of cultural diffusion was inevitable.

Still, I was, to my surprise, slightly sad. Not to romanticize it overly, but it felt as though another bit of a shared bit of the common culture was fading away. And the headline writer of the article was unaware of it.

As many of you DO know, Eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York’s Sun, and “the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897.

“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 response, in part:

“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.”

3 Responses to ““Yes, Virginia” – say what?”

  • Chris E says:

    🙂 Honestly, I’ve heard it for so long I never questioned it. I just thought it was a movie reference (I’m 37; not sure that’s too old for the young adult defense.)

    The loss of common culture is a big issue. How can you make allusions in things like poetry and literature if we don’t have a common culture?

  • Klara S says:

    Sadly I’m not surprised. Some teenagers here don’t know, who Peter Jackson is, you think they know Titanic or Guns’n’Roses? Nope. And I’m taking about easy stuff like watching movies or listening to the music. And you expect people to read something useful on the internet. Come on! 😉

  • fillyjonk says:

    I’m not so young any more, but I recognized it. I am not SURE but I think the newspaper my parents took used to re-run it every Christmas.

    And I unabashedly love it, because I tend to be sentimental about Christmas but also the thought behind it appeals to me.

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