UCLA students Marjorie Henshaw and Johnny Hessel embracing one another, 1939.
UCLA students Marjorie Henshaw and Johnny Hessel embrace one another at homecoming, 1939.Peter Stackpole—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
UCLA students Marjorie Henshaw and Johnny Hessel embracing one another, 1939.
Two lifeguards hugging, Florida, 1939.
Soldier hugging his wife goodbye at Penn Station before he leaves for war, 1944.
American soldier and his English girlfriend kissing under a tree in Hyde Park, London, 1944.
A mother hugging her son goodbye, 1947.
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Michigan's Menominee High School's annual football game with traditional rivals, Wisconsin Marinette H. S., showing Marinette students hugging each other as they leave.
A man hugging his daughter, 1949.
Dancers Roland Petit and Renee (Zizi) Jeanmaire hugging each other after performance in the ballet "Carmen," 1949.
Christina Goldsmith embracing a Weimaraner puppy, which she took from a new litter of her father's stock, 1950.
Young couple cuddling as they sit down in a hole in the sand while others lie around behind them on a hot Independence Day at the beach, 1950.
A woman hugs her dog, Bruiser, 1950.
Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis embracing at party celebrating their marriage, 1951.
Josephine Baker receiving hug from columnist and friend Nora Ray Holt in her dressing room after her show at the Strand theater, 1951.
Young mother hugging one of her sons, 1955.
Owner of race horse "Needles", Bonnie Heath and co-owner, Jackson C. Dudley, Hug as "Needles" flashes across the finish line the winner, at the Kentucky Derby, 1956.
A child cuddling with a puppy as one of the hospital's methods of using therapy through animals, 1956.
Desi Arnaz embraces Lucille Ball at the new home of their TV production empire, Desilu Studios, 1958.
Olympic track star Wilma Rudolph hugging her grade-school teacher, 1960.
Mrs. Malcolm S. Carpenter hugging her children, 1962.
Steve McQueen and his wife, Neile Adams, embrace in the kitchen of their Hollywood home, 1963.
Frank Sinatra shares a hug at his Warner Bros Studio, 1965.
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Astronaut Eugene Cernan hugging daughter Tracy, 1969.
Shirley MacLaine hugging fellow delegate after McGovern victory at the Democratic National Convention, 1972.
UCLA students Marjorie Henshaw and Johnny Hessel embrace one another at homecoming, 1939.
Peter Stackpole—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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Celebrate National Hugging Day With History's Most Enthusiastic Huggers

Jan 21, 2016

LIFE magazine dispatched its world-class photographers to cover significant world events—battles and elections, state dinners and tragedies—but it also took pains to cover events of more quotidian significance. One example: hugs.

Whether between mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, children and puppies, lovers or friends, images of people embracing provide a counterbalance to the graver images that so often fill the news. On Jan. 21, as National Hugging Day reminds us of the many psychological benefits of a squeeze, LIFE looks back at its most joyful images of hugs.

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

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