The Courier-Gazette editorial

A newspaper for Christmas

By The Courier-Gazette Editorial Board | Dec 19, 2013

The way it falls this year, it was hard to decide which issue of The Courier-Gazette would be the Christmas edition, given that next week's paper has an early deadline and may be out before presents are unwrapped.

However, to be both safe and technical, this is the last edition before the holiday. Next week's will carry the date, Dec. 26, known to some as "Boxing Day."

We thought, rather than continue to complain about local politics in this space, as we do most every week (some of that may be covered elsewhere by our columnists), it might be nice to take a break and remember some of our favorite stories that combine newspapers or journalism and this holiday season. Newspapers, of course, have a long tradition of serving people this time of year, from highlighting the charitable efforts in the community to serving as wrapping paper in many households.

A poem is published

The poem that would be known as "Twas the Night Before Christmas" was first published in a newspaper, The Troy Sentinel in New York, Dec. 23, 1823.

According to History.com, it was written by Clement Clarke Moore, an Episcopal minister, for his three daughters, and he was initially hesitant to publish it due to the frivolous nature of its subject. This poem is largely responsible for our modern image of Santa Claus and helped popularize the idea of him flying from house to house on Christmas Eve in "a miniature sleigh" pulled by eight flying reindeer, leaving presents for deserving children. Perhaps he wrote from personal experience.

A letter is answered

In 1897, The New York Sun's editors received this famous letter:

"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?

"Virginia O'Hanlon, 115 West Ninety Fifth Street"

They answered 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.

"...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 you 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.

"...No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

A truce is reached

On Christmas Eve in 1914, allied and German soldiers found themselves in trenches on the western front.

In the night, they could hear the voices of their enemies coming across the "No Man's Land" between the trenches, the singing of familiar carols in different languages. This helped the enemies realize they shared more common ground than previously thought.

For a brief time, a truce was declared. Soldiers exchanged gifts with their enemy combatants including cigarettes. The temporary ceasefire also gave them time to collect the bodies of their comrades from no man's land.

It is considered one of the last moments of chivalry in the history of warfare. The story was certainly newsworthy and has served as a source of hope.

These are some of the stories enjoyed by people who work in newsrooms this time of year.

To all our readers, we wish a warm "Season's Greetings!"

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