Written By: Eliza Berman

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 edited this gallery. Follow her on Twitter @lizabethronk.

Children talking to Santa Claus, 1946.

Christmas 1946

Children talking to Santa Claus, 1946. (Frank Scherschel / The LIFE Picture Collection)

A young girl talking to Santa Claus on the telephone, 1947.

Christmas 1947

A young girl talking to Santa Claus on the telephone, 1947. (Martha Holmes / The LIFE Picture Collection)

"Santa and Mrs. Claus" answering telephone calls in their workshop at F. A. O. Schwartz, 1947.

Christmas 1947

“Santa and Mrs. Claus” answering telephone calls in their workshop at F. A. O. Schwartz, 1947. (Martha Holmes / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Santa Claus with a young girl, 1948.

Christmas 1948

Santa Claus with a young girl, 1948. (Martha Holmes / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Santa Claus Convention and training course at Waldorf Astoria, 1948.

Christmas 1948

Santa Claus Convention and training course at Waldorf Astoria, 1948. (Martha Holmes / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Man showing Christmas decorations to children, 1948.

Christmas 1948

Man showing Christmas decorations to children, 1948. (Hank Walker / The LIFE Images Collection)

Tana Centero sitting in front of a Christmas tree, Vermont, 1951.

Christmas 1951

Tana Centero sitting in front of a Christmas tree, Vermont, 1951. (Esther Bubley / The LIFE Images Collection)

A family celebrating Christmas, 1953.

Christmas 1953

A family celebrates Christmas, 1953. (Robert W. Kelley / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Baby tasting a piece of metallic tinsel dangling from a Christmas tree, 1954.

Christmas 1954

Baby tasting a piece of metallic tinsel dangling from a Christmas tree, 1954. (Verner Reed / The LIFE Images Collection)

A little girl looking at doll through a window at Christmas time, 1955.

Christmas 1955

A little girl looking at doll through a window at Christmas time, 1955. (Ralph Morse / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Mrs. George Sutton and her family decorating their Christmas tree at home, 1956.

Christmas 1956

Mrs. George Sutton and her family decorating their Christmas tree at home, 1956. (Ralph Crane / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Preparations for Christmas pageant at Bryn Mawr Community Church, 1956.

Christmas 1956

Preparations for Christmas pageant at Bryn Mawr Community Church, 1956. (Francis Miller / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Scene from the "Trail to Christmas" adaptation of Charles Dicken's "Christmas Carol," 1957.

Christmas 1957

Scene from the “Trail to Christmas” adaptation of Charles Dicken’s “Christmas Carol,” 1957. (Allan Grant / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Children's Christmas play, 1958.

Christmas 1958

Children’s Christmas play, 1958. (Nina Leen / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Young Santa Claus in a Christmas program at Elizabeth Morrow School, 1958.

Christmas 1958

Young Santa Claus in a Christmas program at Elizabeth Morrow School, 1958. (Nina Leen / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Ken Berends and Bill Burslem practice a soft-shoe with faculty member Joy Merkel in Santa Claus training class at Santa Claus School, 1961.

Christmas 1961

Ken Berends and Bill Burslem practice a soft-shoe with faculty member Joy Merkel in Santa Claus training class at Santa Claus School, 1961. (Alfred Eisenstaedt / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Tina Smith decorating a Christmas tree at Guantanamo Naval Base, where her dad, Lt. Commander Joe Smith is stationed, 1962.

Christmas 1962

Tina Smith decorating a Christmas tree at Guantanamo Naval Base, where her dad, Lt. Commander Joe Smith is stationed, 1962. (John Dominis / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Little girl giving Santa Claus a kiss, 1962.

Christmas 1962

Little girl giving Santa Claus a kiss, 1962. (Donald Uhrbrock / The LIFE Images Collection)

Young child visiting Santa Claus at a department store, 1970.

Christmas 1970

Young child visiting Santa Claus at a department store, 1970. (Ralph Morse / The LIFE Picture Collection)

Raymond and Susie McFarland looking raptly at their new Airedale puppy, who's leaning towards them out of Christmas gift box, 1972.

Christmas 1972

Raymond and Susie McFarland looking raptly at their new Airedale puppy, who’s leaning towards them out of Christmas gift box, 1972. (Ralph Crane / The LIFE Picture Collection)

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