Children talking to Santa Claus, 1946.
Children talk to Santa Claus, 1946.Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Children talking to Santa Claus, 1946.
A young girl talking to Santa Claus on the telephone, 1947.
"Santa and Mrs. Claus" answering telephone calls in their workshop at F. A. O. Schwartz, 1947.
Santa Claus with a young girl, 1948.
Santa Claus Convention and training course at Waldorf Astoria, 1948.
Man showing Christmas decorations to children, 1948.
Tana Centero sitting in front of a Christmas tree, Vermont, 1951.
A family celebrating Christmas, 1953.
Baby tasting a piece of metallic tinsel dangling from a Christmas tree, 1954.
A little girl looking at doll through a window at Christmas time, 1955.
Mrs. George Sutton and her family decorating their Christmas tree at home, 1956.
Preparations for Christmas pageant at Bryn Mawr Community Church, 1956.
Scene from the "Trail to Christmas" adaptation of Charles Dicken's "Christmas Carol," 1957.
Children's Christmas play, 1958.
Young Santa Claus in a Christmas program at Elizabeth Morrow School, 1958.
Ken Berends and Bill Burslem practice a soft-shoe with faculty member Joy Merkel in Santa Claus training class at Santa Claus School, 1961.
Tina Smith decorating a Christmas tree at Guantanamo Naval Base, where her dad, Lt. Commander Joe Smith is stationed, 1962.
Little girl giving Santa Claus a kiss, 1962.
Young child visiting Santa Claus at a department store, 1970.
Raymond and Susie McFarland looking raptly at their new Airedale puppy, who's leaning towards them out of Christmas gift box, 1972.
Children talk to Santa Claus, 1946.
Frank Scherschel—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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20 of the Most Joyful Christmas Photos of All Time

Dec 21, 2015

The holiday season is all about tidings of joy: a crackle in the fireplace, the twinkle of lights, perhaps one too many glasses of eggnog. And no matter the gravity of the stories in the news, LIFE captured that joy year in and year out. Most frequently, that process involved photographing some combination of children and Santa Claus, whether they tugged on his cotton-white beard or gaped in disbelief at some long-coveted doll. Here, as this year’s Christmas rolls around, are LIFE’s most joyful images of Christmases past.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

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