December 21, 2015 4:00 AM EST

The spirit of the holiday season is wrapped up in a cultural history that counts Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey and Edmund Gwenn’s Kris Kringle among its icons. There is something about this time of year that inspires a look backward, not just on the previous year but on a feeling of generosity, an electric charge in the air, that has persisted over decades of Decembers. But summoning images of the cheer brought by Stewart, Gwenn and the anonymous faces captured in so many vintage photographs yields a world reduced to black and white.

To make those images more immediate, TIME commissioned freelance photo editor Sanna Dullaway to colorize vintage photos of the holiday season. From the messy aftermath of a holiday sale at Macy’s to mail carriers weighed down with packages to Santas straightening their beards, the newly vivid images have a painterly feel, like eerily crisp Normal Rockwell paintings. But they are also timeless, imbued with the same warmth and joy those who celebrate hope will characterize the season each time it returns.

Sanna Dullaway is a photo editor based in Sweden. See more of her work here.

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