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January 19, 2021

‘Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus’

By Colly Gruczelak, Plain Talk About Food

Pulling the last tray of maraschino cookies from the oven I noticed that darkness was descending on our Ben Lomond neighborhood and I worked quickly to finish my cleanup. Settling into a chair in front of my kitchen window with a glass of wine and a newly baked cookie, I watched as one by one, the Christmas lights came on in the yards of my neighbors. A light mist was falling, creating a bright glow around each light… sparkling so beautifully, my eyes teared.

While looking across at a blown-up version of ‘Santa Claus’, I was reminded of a letter written long ago. In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote to the editor of the New York Sun as follows: 

Dear Editor, I am 8 years old.  My 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? 

Veteran newsman Francis Church in the form of an unsigned editorial, wrote back the following editorial which has become the most reprinted newspaper editorial in history. I have extracted parts from that infamous editorial for you here: 

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see.

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 was 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.

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.

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

And now this evening, some 120 years later, I am looking at my neighbor’s lighting displays and thinking of all the good that has been done this past year. I can truly say to all the little Virginias and Johnnies as well…Yes, Santa Claus does live in each and every heart, especially those who live in this, our beautiful San Lorenzo Valleys. Merry Christmas dear Readers.

Maraschino Cherry/Date Cookies

(I have never found this cookie in any recipe book. It came from Mary Whalen, a dear friend in Watsonville, 65 years ago). Read through carefully. A little effort but no one can resist these delicious cookies. When sliced, each has a cherry half in the center. Beautiful for the Holiday table.

Prepare ahead:

  • ¾ Cup Dates diced and sprinkled with 1Tbsp. flour
  • 1 Jelly Roll pan approx. 11”x 15” lined with a double layer of waxed paper which has been sprayed with PAM and then lightly floured.

In bowl add and set aside:

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. salt

In mixing bowl add:

  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • Beat until light and fluffy

Lightly fold in flour mixture then dates, spread in pan to the edges. Then: 

1.  Arrange 2 rows of cherries (10 per roll) one inch apart at each end of dough mixture and ½ inch from the edge of the pan.

2.  Alternate the second row so the cherries are not directly across from each other so when rolled up the second row of cherries will be between the first row of cherries.

3.  Bake in a preheated oven to 325 degrees. 20-25 minutes or until light brown. If too brown cookies will not roll well.

4.  While cookies are baking, prepare another sheet of waxed paper which has been doubled and about 20 inches long and sprinkled with 3 Tbsp. of powdered sugar.

5.  When cookies are done, immediately turn out onto sugared waxed paper and trim ¼ in. off all edges and cut the baked dough horizontally across…creating two baked cakes.

6.  Immediately, while hot, beginning with cherry end, roll up in jelly-roll fashion and wrap in waxed paper, twisting ends to seal. Refrigerate (or freeze). Repeat with the second roll. When cold, frost and roll in chopped walnuts. Each roll should yield 25 cookies. The rolls freeze well after frosted and I only slice as many as I need about ½ in. thick.

Frosting:

  • 2 Tbsp. softened butter
  • 2 Tbsp. softened cream cheese
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3-4 Tbsp. rum or milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla if milk is used.

Mix well and frost cookie rolls then roll in 1 ½ cups finely chopped walnuts.


Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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