Like the man said many years ago: There is a Santa Claus.

In 2006, my daughter Meredith had her faith in Santa Claus shaken a bit by a non-believer, a young classmate in kindergarten. It didn’t take much to get those thoughts of sugar plums and reindeer dancing again in her head and her heart. I wrote about her first brush with a non-believer in a newspaper column that year.

Now 10 years old and in fourth grade, Meredith still believes, which is the real joy of Christmas at our house. Readers often ask me to reprint that Buster-vs.-Santa Claus column and I am glad to oblige. Here it is:

Meredith Connor had a minor crisis this Christmas.

Her friend Buster told her he does not believe in Santa Claus.

At 6 years old and as the biggest fan ever of a Christmas movie called “The Polar Express,” Meredith found this disclosure disheartening, even though she remained unshaken in her own faith that she would hear bells ringing and the thud of a sleigh pulled by reindeer landing on the roof of her house as Santa made his appointed rounds.

“Buster must have done something bad,” she said.

“Probably,” I replied, “but that does not mean that Buster is a bad boy, generally speaking.”

“Right,” she said. “I think he’s my boyfriend.”

There was no obvious connection between Buster’s lack of fidelity to the legend of Santa and those stirrings that make Meredith’s Irish heartstrings play wildly, other than the notion that true love knows no bounds, I guess.

Some questions go unasked when your daughter announces she has a boyfriend.

We’ve now watched “The Polar Express” about 100 times, and the soundtrack CD plays continuously on our home sound system.

Meredith believes, and her belief is a joy to behold.

Earlier this month, I wanted to capture her suspension of disbelief for posterity, so she donned a funny winter hat and agreed to cast a look of bewilderment at an early gift she received the day after Thanksgiving. It’s a model of a balloon holding aloft a basket loaded with Santa and lots of presents for the good boys and girls.

Buster’s cynicism regarding Santa is not without precedent, of course.

It was 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon who in 1897 wrote a letter to a popular New York newspaper, The Sun, asking if Santa was real. Her father, a physician, suggested it.

According to accounts I have read, Virginia wrote to the newspaper, most likely during the summer, shortly after she had turned 8, and the newspaper responded in an editorial on Sept. 21.

Perhaps the most celebrated newspaper editorial of all time, the piece contains a famous line: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” That editorial has reappeared again and again at Christmastime.

“Papa says, ‘If you see it in The Sun, it’s so,’” wrote Virginia.

The monumental task of upholding the reputations of both The Sun and Santa Claus fell to Francis Pharcellus Church, a man who had no children but nevertheless summoned the insight and grace to answer Virginia.

Church had seen much of life’s misery as a Civil War correspondent, but that experience had not dulled his appreciation for the boundless horizons of imagination.

“Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies!” he wrote.

His editorial has become memorialized as the answer to the question that has threatened the wonderment and innocence of children for centuries. Because the symbolism of Santa Claus runs so deep and is so far-reaching, the image of the jolly man from the North Pole remains untarnished.

The image of newspapers as the complete, final and truthful word on all things has not fared as well. That image, in fact, has been seriously undermined, although most newspapers still strive for unbending authenticity.

But if newspapers have fallen from grace, it is not the fault of Francis Church. He did his part, and he did it for the ages.

Church knew the naysayers of his world would be the naysaying Busters of Meredith Connor’s world.

“Virginia, your little friends are wrong,” Church wrote. “They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age.”

No matter what the era, most of us believe that our times are unique. They may well be different in any number of ways. Technological advances come to mind. On Sept. 21, 1897, Church’s Santa Claus editorial was the seventh on the page. One placed higher had to do with a new invention: the “chainless bicycle.”

Machines change, society advances, but human nature does not change and has not changed.

That’s why the works of a literary genius such as William Shakespeare remain as relevant today as they were hundreds of years ago. It’s why the editorial reply to Virginia conveys the same message today that it did in 1897.

It tells of love, hope, charity, dignity and that most elusive and hard-to-hold virtue — faith.

The snowy and sometimes calamitous journey aboard “The Polar Express” is a journey toward teaching one child that there can be no joy, no Santa Claus, unless you believe.

Back in the days of Virginia O’Hanlon, there were the same complaints about Christmas that we hear today. Too much commercialism threatened the sanctity of what is, after all, a religious holiday and celebration.

For me, those tirades have become tiresome. So have those men and women of furrowed brow who worry about our lack of appreciation for values deeper than the anxiety of diving under the Christmas tree to tear open gifts.

I love the entire spectacle of Christmas. Just last week, I told Meredith that I was sure I’d seen Santa and his reindeer on a trial run across the night sky. And if I were to see Buster, I’d tell him, too. I’d plant the tiniest of seeds in Buster’s mind that he just might be wrong. Before long, he wouldn’t dare to be a disbeliever.

I’d tell him about Virginia and her letter. And I’d read to him:

“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. 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 would have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.”

Then I’d pause, and gently tell Buster there was more:

“Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will make glad the heart of childhood.”

Finally, I’d peer deep into his eyes and ask this alleged boyfriend his intentions regarding my daughter.

And I’d remind him of how dreary life would be without all the Merediths and all the children who can teach us much more about life than the story of Santa.

It’s simple: All you must do is believe.

Richard Connor is editor and publisher and CEO of MaineToday Media, which publishes the Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. Read the “Yes, Virginia” letter and editorial at www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/