“Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” writes 8 year old Virginia in her famous 1897 letter to Frances Pharcellus Church.
Santa Claus is a staple of childhood for most people. Regardless of religion many children still experience Christmas through the big guy in red. This explains why a letter over 100 years old still finds itself part of pop culture. Whether someone has actually read the original letter, or they only know the famous lines, the idea of “childlike faith” as Church phrases it, is a staple for adults.
In 1989 a Christmas film, Prancer, clearly inspired by the letter, was released. The story centers around an 8 girl named Jessica Riggs (Rebecca Harrell), who loves Christmas. That interest shields her from the harsher side of her life. Her mother is dead, and her father’s apple farm is struggling financially. Amongst all the disarray Riggs still posts reindeer window stickers in her room, and loves going by her small towns reindeer statues. Unfortunately the Prancer statue falls from the line one day. The situation heads north again however, when Riggs finds a reindeer in the woods, believing that it’s Prancer.
Within the movie a sermon is given about how children are growing up faster than before. The idea being timeless, because 92 years prior children were also losing their fantasy worlds relatively early as well. The 1897 letter proves that. Within different mediums, over different decades, the idea is accepted well by audiences. No one understands how important it is to stay young until they’ve grown up.
In one of the final scenes Riggs admits to not believing Prancer it the real Prancer. Her father John (Sam Elliot) takes the same approach as Church, and takes the response out to read. The final lines of Church’s letter, “Thank God! He lives, and he lives forever. A Thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood,” capture the point of the film, and the original article. Innocence is something to hold onto, in this case specifically for little girls.
In Majorie Williams piece, The Halloween of My Dreams she struggles with her third grade daughters Halloween costumes. “I court her wrath by refusing to buy the kids’ fashions that seem designed to clothe tiny hookers,” writes Williams.
In a common mother/daughter struggle Williams has to keep her child from wearing something too mature. An unfortunate twist to the story however, is that Williams is sick, and might not be able to see many more years of her daughter’s life. During this latest Halloween she is able to create a fantasy though, by having he daughter wear something mature, but not too skanky.
“I’d just seen Alice leave for her prom, or her first real date. I’d cheated time…” writes Williams of the costume. It allowed her to see her daughter grow up, without stealing her daughter’s innocence. Something that Williams wants to hold onto, even if darker circumstances are around her.
Both pieces follow the idea of little girls staying innocent. It’s not to say little boys should grow up quickly, but something about a little girl seems more fragile. You can present them as princesses, always kept away from the more terrible aspects of life. A job similar to that of a security guard, that different types of people take on, because everyone seems to agree that we need to maintain the innocence of little girls.
Church, Frances Pharcellus. Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. September 21, 1897.
Prancer. Dir. John D. Hancock. Nelson Entertainment, Cineplex Odeon Films, Orion Pictures. MGM. 1989. Film.
Williams, Majorie. The Halloween of My Dreams. November 3rd, 2004.
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I think we want to protect the innocence of little girls, because of all the sexism on top of stuff like menstruation and childbirth (which they will be shamed for) they grow up to face. I want to be care free, like a child, but knowing what was coming for me and the sexism I already faced killed that.
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