In an episode with this plot, one character (typically a child or very naive/innocent person) will believe in Santa Claus. At least one other character will try to prove to them otherwise, but by the end of the episode Santa's existence is confirmed.
It will never be explained why all the presents appearing without anyone buying or wrapping them is not considered convincing evidence in these settings. Quite often it doesn't seem to happen; even though Santa is making deliveries all over the world, no one ever gets any extras unless it's a plot point. The trope is named after a famous 1897 editorial.
- Subverted in Lyrical Nanoha, Nanoha tells Fate about Santa, hoping that she might believe in him for a little while, but is unsuccessful when Fate begins questioning certain aspects of the Santa fairytale, like how he can fly. Nanoha notes that few kids believe in Santa in their modern society, that Arisa and Suzuka never believed him, and that her older sister Miyuki believed in him until 4th grade.
- In The All-New Tenchi Muyo!! manga series, Washu goes to great lengths to make sure other kids doesn't destroy Sasami's perspective of Santa - mostly by teleporting items (or the other girls). In the end, it's all for naught: Sasami still believes in Santa, knows there are kids who don't - she says that's why the parents give kids Christmas presents instead of Santa!
- Spoofed in a four page story in the DCU Infinite Holiday Special: Superman reads a child's letter asking for Santa and decides to dress up like Santa to prove he's real. Batman stops him and tells him how silly that is and that he should be helping people...which is all a ruse so he can dress up like Bat-Santa! It ends with Superman decking Bat-Santa.
- Wow...that just says so much about Superman.
- A better example happens in an issue of DC Comics Presents, where Superman tries to foil one of The Toyman's plots on Christmas Eve but temporarily loses the power of flight. He runs into Santa Claus at the North Pole, who gives him a ride and helps defeat the villain. In the end, it seems it was All Just a Dream... and then Superman finds his favorite childhood toy, that was destroyed when Krypton exploded!
- This is all a moot point anyway, as Santa is a confirmed entity in the DC universe. He fights his way into Apokolips every year to give Darkseid a chunk of coal.
- And then there's the Marvel story Yes, Virginia, There Is A Santron, where Gadgeteer Genius Virgie Hanlon, a young woman who never got over being told by classmates that Santa wasn't real when she was 8 decides to build a robot Santa. Unfortunately, unknown to her, the parts she used belonged to Ultron and "Santa" unsurprisingly immediately runs away to attack the Avengers. Luckily, Virgie's programming compels "Santron" to eat cookies and thus he is easily defeated. It ends on◊ this◊.
- Miracle on 34th Street, based on the famous editorial. The kid in question doesn't believe because her mother thinks that it's not proper to believe in someone that she doesn't think exists.
- The Santa Clause has elements of this. Scott Calvin pretends to believe in Santa for Charlie's sake, but once Santa actually shows up, he desperately tries to find a more plausible explanation for what's going on, breaking the ruse. Later, Charlie's mother and step-father get to discover for themselves that Santa is real.
- In Santa's Slay, Santa says "yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" to a woman surprised by him breaking into the house.
- Interestingly enough, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians averts this from the start — Santa's existence is a known fact, and the movie even opens with a reporter visiting the workshop and interviewing him. This isn't a good thing, because Aliens Steal Cable...
- Likewise, The Nightmare Before Christmas also averts this by having Santa's existence be an known fact, even cancelling Christmas when Santa can't be found.
- The Santa Trap is all about what happens when a little girl tries to capture Santa to prove he is real.
- The classic children's book The Polar Express (made into The Film of the Book).
- Parodied on the back of O Ye Jigs & Juleps!
- Subverted in Superfudge, where Peter has never believed in Santa (he caught his parents stacking presents under the tree when he was three) and only humors Fudge under orders from their parents. Fudge goes into ecstasies over his new bike on Christmas morning, thanking Santa "wherever he is", but confides to Peter that he's never believed, either.
- The Ingalls family had to do a lot of explaining to their kids about whether Santa Claus was going to make it out to whatever new, barely-settled territory they were living in that year, and if so how, and how much to expect. In one book, when the upcoming Christmas is looking pretty sparse, Ma tells Laura and Mary that they should have realized by now that Santa can't be just one person who goes around to each individual house — but he's omnipresent and magical and manifests in unselfishness, so she thinks it would be nice if this year instead of presents for themselves they only wished for new horses for their father. In the end they do get a little candy along with the horses and their presents for each other.
- Spoofed in Hogfather: '...yes, Twyla: there is a Hogfather.' Of course, the Hogfather does exist (as long as kids believe he does), and Susan's preceding speech was about how people are credulous and childish anyway, so this is something of a subversion... It turns into a Double Subversion at the end with Death's speech about how people have to believe little lies like the Hogfather before you can believe in big ones like justice and mercy, which is essentially "as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist" from the Reaper's unique perspective.
- Wonderfully subverted in The Areas of My Expertise as the story instead is a grim retelling involving death and Santa's bones in a baby's rattle.
"Yes, Virginia," he famously wrote, Santa Claus does exist. He is as real as fairies, as real as your baby brothers baby rattle. In fact, if you break that rattle apart, you will find Santas finger bones and teeth right in there. Take them to a scientist: He will say the same."
- Cheers. In one Christmas Episode, Frasier is in an all-time cynical mood about Christmas - Lilith can't even say "Merry Christmas" without earning a snark from him. Norm comes into a bar with a group of other mall Santas, which Frasier can't help but mock. However, one convincing Santa with a real beard leaves the group a little early, saying he has a big night ahead of him. Norm and the other Santas don't recall him ever working a mall. Frasier says he hears sleigh bells, and starts to wonder if it really was the real Santa Claus. However, said Santa comes back in, complaining his car needs a jump. However, Frasier remains overjoyed with the Christmas spirit. When asked why by Lilith, Frasier explains that for the first time, he really did believe there really was a Santa Claus, however briefly - that was enough to put him in the holiday mood, and he leads a round of "Deck the Halls".
- The Nanny did it in the Christmas episode at the hospital. I don't know which kid believed...
- Have I Got News for You, covering a somehow uniquely depressing Christmas story, about a "Lapland forest" attraction for children that was so sordid and cheap and grimy that parents starting attacking the performers and demanding their money back.
Andy Hamilton: The Sun was very irresponsible, though, because there was a very alarmist headline, which said, Santa and Four Elves Beaten Up. And I think we should say, to any small children watching, Santa is okay.
Paul Merton: Yeah. He won't be able to deliver any presents this year, because he's recovering in hospital...
Andy: He is okay, and he definitely exists, by the way.
Paul: Definitely exists.
David Mitchell: Otherwise, how could he have had the shit kicked out of him?
- The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Simultaneously inverted when it has to be explained to Will that Shaft was never a real person.
- An episode of Amen which had Frye acting more like Scrooge. When called in to defend a man dressed as Santa who punched another man who was ridiculing him, Frye initially thinks the man is nuts before coming to the conclusion that he is Santa, and decides to use this as his defense. After winning the case, Frye comes home to find the train set that he's wanted since he was a little boy under the Christmas tree, as a reward for being ''good".
- On Home Improvement, the older boys, Brad and Randy, tell youngest brother Mark that Santa died the year before Mark was born. At the end of the episode, Santa makes an appearance, giving Mark the one present that Tim couldn't find. As Santa leaves, Tim remarks that Wilson is a great neighbor to dress up like that, just as Jill sees Wilson waving to them from over his fence.
- The Bewitched episode "A Vision of Sugarplums" has Samantha and Darrin care for a troublesome orphan boy on Christmas Eve. The boy explains to Sam that he doesn't believe in Santa Claus because his father worked as a department store Santa, and explained to him that Santa Claus doesn't exist. Sam restores the boy's faith by giving him a flight to visit the real Santa Claus at his workshop.
- The famous newspaper response, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus." The newspaper response did not verify Santa as a living, breathing creature with a red suit and reindeer that goes "Ho Ho Ho". Rather, that his spirit of goodness and generosity embodies the people of Earth around Christmastime every year. Read for yourself.
- Pogo reverses this at one point. A bear is dressed as Santa Claus just as the cast start discovering that there's a Georgia in the (then) Soviet Union. Afraid that the Russians stole a state, the bear reveals he's from Virginia, leading to 'Yes, Santa Claus, there is a Virginia!'.
- An old The Family Circus strip has Dolly sitting on Daddy's lap. The question she has just asked him, and he has just answered, is made obvious by her follow-up.
Dolly: Daddy, why did you say, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus? My name is Dolly, not Virginia.
- A very sick version appears in Roadkill. On the radio, a shock jock is talking about the time that he got a scatter gun for Christmas... and describes, in detail, how he used it to kill a "hobo" in a red suit with a bunch of deer who was trying to break into his home through his chimney, thus "saving Christmas".
- In Kingdom Hearts II, during the first trip to Halloween Town, Sora and co. actually get to meet Santa Claus and become his bodyguards, with Sora being a bit too excited about it. Though when they finally meet the jolly old man, Sora is revealed to be on the naughty list because he stopped believing seven years prior to the events of the game after being told by Riku that Santa does not exist. This reveal causing the teenager to moan in embarrassment.
- Done in a very unusual manner in the SCP Foundation. One of the SCPs is a little girl with the power to bend reality. Someone tells her about Santa, and then someone else tells her that Santa isn't real. As a result, there's now someone running around with all Santa's powers, and the Foundation can't catch him because he's 'magic'.
- Addressed by The Onion: "Sitcom Characters Still in Shock after Christmas Episode Proves Existence of Santa Claus."
I feel like I'm losing my fucking mind.
- Interestingly, in Yes, Virginia, the 2008 CBS Christmas Special specifically about the original New York Sun editorial, this is averted; the jolly elf never appears. However, the rest of the trope is accorded with. The two characters who express overt disbelief are rude and pretentious about it, one being the Alpha Bitch and the other a Grumpy Bear who later turns around to write the very editorial itself. The story as a whole is clearly pro-belief; the town even has a "Belief-O-Meter", and uplifting orchestral swells correlate with this meter rising.
- Recess, "Yes Mikey, Santa Claus Does Shave" - Mikey is the only one of the gang who still believes in Santa.
- The Jimmy Neutron Christmas episode has Jimmy trying to convince his friends that Santa isn't real, going so far as to take a trip to the North Pole... where even after arriving at Santa's workshop, he's convinced it's somehow all fake. After accidentally zapping Santa and being told Christmas has to be called off, he offers to deliver all the toys from his rocket, claiming that if a mere mortal can succeed in delivering all the toys in one night, it's proof that Santa doesn't exist. Naturally, he fails, and Santa, who has gotten better, steps in at the last moment to finish the job.
- Rankin-Bass' ''Twas the Night Before Christmas, where the non-believer is told with a straight face that he ruined an entire town's Christmas for having an opinion, although it was less "he had an opinion" and more "he had an opinion and accidentally applied it to everyone else".
- Another Rankin-Bass example has a little boy named Iggy who vocally states his disbelief in Santa Claus in front of the disguised big guy himself. Cue this song number and Iggy's disbelief being shaken and thoroughly removed upon seeing "Mr. Klaus" flying away on his reindeer's back.
- Danny Phantom has this trope between Jack (who believes), and Maddie (who doesn't). Their bickering over Santa around Christmas, got to the stage where it actually made Danny hate Christmas.
- A segment of Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas. Naturally Goofy is an adamant believer, while bully neighbor Pete not only denies the existence of Santa, but also installs doubt into Goofy's son Max. In a reversal of the usual situation it's the child Max who gives up hope while Goofy the father continues to try and convince his son otherwise. Naturally, Santa is real, Max becomes a believer, Goofy proves that somehow he is always right in these situations, and Pete gets his.
- The obligatory Christmas episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Though Christmas is a fairly new holiday in Bikini Bottom, everyone is certain of Santa's existence, especially Spongebob...everyone except (you guessed it) Squidward. Santa of course turns out to be real...and he's scary cheerful.
- Class of 3000 Kam argues that Santa simply cannot exist, but it turns out he does! And he gives Kam a lifetime membership to the Bigfoot Watchers Society.
Mrs. Claus: Poor child, he still believes in Bigfoot.
- In Santabear's High Flying Adventure, Santa sends Santabear to deliver presents to the South Pole, where people have trouble believing in Christmas, let alone Santa. Santabear's mission is slightly thwarted by Bully Bear, who wants revenge on Santa for an earlier slight, and plans to deliver broken presents to completely squash out any belief in Santa.
- This is Candace's plot point for all of 3 seconds in the Phineas and Ferb Christmas Episode before the elves show up.
- One episode of Dexter's Laboratory had Dexter claim that Santa and his reindeer were his parents in disguise. He retains this opinion throughout the entire episode, even after we see that Santa doesn't have the same body dimensions as his dad and he mistakes an actual reindeer for his mother. This results in him shooting Santa's sleigh down, blowing up probably all of the presents that Santa Claus was carrying that night. In short, he ruined Christmas for the ''whole world''.
- In one episode of Earthworm Jim, Jolly St. Nick reveals he used to be a Norse god of justice (Itself a Mythology Gag) and saves the day, to which Jim comments, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus- and he kicks butt!"
- Parodied in the South Park episode "Crack Baby Athletic Association". Only instead of Santa, it's Guns N' Roses' Slash.
- Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer: In an subversion, the reveal of Santa Claus is not the climax or the main plot point. In fact, Santa seems so casual about revealing his existence that you'd have to wonder if he was even trying to keep it secret in the first place.
- The plot of the Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends Christmas episode, "A Lost Claus". After seeing a bunch of imaginary Santas, Mac and Bloo try to prove to themselves that Santa Claus exists.
- Subverted in the Invader Zim episode "The Most Horrible X-Mas Ever," in which Zim makes a semi-sapient robotic Santa suit for his scheme, only for it to fly off into space at the end.
Mr. Sludgy: Santa lives on!Child: In the hearts and minds of us all?
- Some parents are so determined to instill belief in Santa Claus in their children and preserve that belief that they'll not only tell their children that he exists, but they'll do certain things to "prove" this to them. For example, they'll leave cookies for him and eat them, write a thank-you note supposedly from Santa, look at their childrens' letters to Santa and get the specific things on the list they asked for. And if their children show signs of wavering in this belief, they'll (in some cases) up the ante on this.
- In larger families, the older kids may or may not be in on this. Hey, if it means there's an extra present from "Santa" with their name on it, why not?
- And when the youngest does figure out Santa isn't real, he has more to gain by keeping the masquerade than breaking it (especially if urged on by older siblings). This occasionally leads to parents being really worried when their youngest turns 15 and is still writing letters to Santa.
- The Father Christmas Letters demonstrated to J. R. R. Tolkien's children that Santa was real enough to write them elaborately detailed letters, complete with full-color illustrations, stories of the epic events at the North Pole (including battles between goblins and Santa's elves), and meticulously crafted North Pole postage stamps. This is included here because the letters weren't intended to be a book; they were only published because fans were badgering the Tolkien Estate to publish more of the Professor's writings.
- NORAD (yes, the one with The Big Board) tracks Santa.
- St. Nicholas the Wonderworker was perfectly real.