44 Adorable Vintage Photos of Kids Meeting Santa
One of the most magical Christmas traditions for children hasn't changed for generations—visiting the Jolly Old Elf.
Santa visits Chicago
“Downtown Chicago had a lot of places to visit Santa, but in 1923 my sister SylviaBelle (right) and I saw him at the Marshall Fields store. In those days, kids didn’t sit on Santa’s lap. I look scared—which I was!—but I was only 4,” says Betty Osincup of Washington, Iowa. Discover what Christmas looked like 100 years ago.
All covered up
“This photo always makes me think Santa wanted to be sure he wasn’t chilly, with his cap and beard covering everything but his eyes! I know our two daughters, Dianne and Lou Ann, were warm in their new mittens and happy with their Christmas stockings when this was taken in 1963 in Dyersville, Iowa,” says Lois Hullermann.
Christmas in the White House
The First Lady Betty Ford brought Santa Claus to the White House to meet with some of the children of diplomats. After meeting with Santa they got to see a puppet show and meet with clowns.
Dreaming of a doll
“I was 6 years old and my sister, Brenda, was 8,” says Sharon Rawlings Provence of Granite City, Illinois. “I remember going to downtown Granite City to Santa’s Cabin in 1961 to tell Santa that I wanted a Tiny Tears doll. After visiting Santa, we walked through gently falling snow to Woolworth’s. What a fun store to visit at Christmas!” Read more heartwarming stories about meeting Kris Kringle.
Dog Santa meeting baseball Santa
This festive and excited dog was very happy to meet baseball star, Willie Mays, dressed up as Santa Claus in 1977.
Triplets Barbara, Bonnie, and Allan Baker were 22 months old when they took this picture with Santa in 1952. Their mom bundled up all four of her kids and took a bus to Toyland at Robinson’s Department Store.
Charlotte Woodson’s kids, Ray, Barbie, and Shirley Ann, had no doubts after Santa greeted them as “the little Woodson children” in 1955. Their parents taught them that the real Santa Claus was the one at Wanamaker’s department store in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and the rest were just helpers. This is the best Christmas town in every state.
John McGowan, 2, now of Ghent, New York, stares down the big man in 1950.
Scared of Santa
“My mother took me to see this not-so-jolly looking Santa Claus in nearby Bethlehem before Christmas in the early 1950s. I was scared, but I managed to ask for one thing: A Cadillac like the one my rich Uncle Larry drove. I never did get it,” says Barbara Adamcik of Freemansburg, Pennsylvania. Vintage letters to Santa will put you in the holiday spirit.
Present for her parents
“After telling Santa what I wanted, he asked if I got my parents anything. I told him that my sister, Emma, 8, and I would give them a box of candy. I had no idea I was being recorded. When my parents played the record at home, I could be heard spilling the beans. Boy, was Emma mad at me. This was in 1950, when I was 5. I love my bangs and my Toni home perm. And I still have that recording,” says Cathy Eddings of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Christopher Black, now of West Jordan, Utah, smiles as sister Candy handles the tough negotiations in 1951.
At age 2, in 1940, Dottie Hatton Lasley, now of Princeton, New Jersey, wasn’t afraid of her dad’s Santa mask. “But today,” she says, “it gives me chills!” This family gave Santa cheeseburgers, not cookies.
Not feeling jolly
“My daughter Kristen, 6 months, is confused, but my son, Jeff, 3, clearly felt unhappy that day in 1974 at the Watt & Shand store in Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” says Elaine Grant of Uncasville, Connecticut.
Around the world
Judy Oliver, now of Huntsville, Texas, (center) was 7 when she, brother David, 9, and sister Kathy, 3, saw Santa at Camp Darby in Italy, where their dad was stationed in 1976.
“My mother, Patricia, looks happy at Santa’s knee at Lipkin’s in Bethlehem in 1947. Little did she and her siblings know that three more kids would later join the family. Maybe Santa knew,” says Martin Di Maria of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. These are the best small towns for Christmas lights.
Michelle Sprague loves this image of her mother-in-law, Helen, visiting Santa at Frederick & Nelson in 1945 in Seattle, Washington. “It truly captures the surprise and magic of Christmas,” she writes from Tonasket, Washington.
Excitement got the best of little Esther Daniels in 1945 during her one and only visit with Santa at Frederick & Nelson department store in downtown Seattle, Washington. We ranked the best-ever Christmas carols.
“My husband, Bruce Woolf, and his sister, Linda, are seen having some fun with Santa in 1955 at a department store in Los Angeles, California,” says Gretchen Woolf of Central Point, Oregon.
Santa’s little helper
Sheila treasures this photo of her husband, Homer McCormick, with their son, Mark, in 1965. This is why Christmas is on December 25.
Santa speaks Italian
“Even though I could not speak English then, in 1945, I was excited to see Sani Closi, as we called him in Italian, in Santa Cruz, California,” says Norma Wilson of Scotts Valley, California.
Mommy kissing Santa Claus
This is a Christmas card we made with the help of my husband’s uncle Fred, an amateur photographer. It was taken in 1952 when our daughter, Susan, was 3, and son, Dana, was 2. The expressions on their faces show how really astonished they were to see “Mommy kissing Santa Claus”—my husband, Jack. This was around the time the song was so popular.
Department store visit
“It was Christmas 1961 when this photo of me and my sister, LeRee, was taken at Wolf & Dessauer in Fort Wayne, Indiana,” says Monica Davis. “It was an adventure to go there because they had many animated holiday figures in the windows. Seeing Santa was a bonus.” Here are the things your mall Santa won’t tell you.
Yes, there is a Santa Claus
“This was taken in the late 1950s when, as kids, our parents took us to the ‘big city’ of Indianapolis to see Santa. This is me thinking, ‘Yes, Natalie, there is a Santa Claus,'” says Natalie Thompson of Elwood, Indiana.
Comfort and joy
Mary Ann Ladowski Goodemote (right) fondly recalls seeing Santa with her cousin Gerry at Adam Meldrum & Anderson in Buffalo, New York. “What joy we had that day,” she says. These funny Santa jokes will keep you jolly this Christmas.
“My grandpa Edward Brown would dress up as Santa and go around our neighborhood in Ottawa, Illinois, handing out candy to kids. This photo must have been taken in the late 1940s and ran in the local paper shortly after Grandpa died. The caption called him ‘a big man with a heart to match,'” says David Brown of Modesto, California.
Debra Lozon appears awestruck as she looks up at Santa. She met the jolly old fella in 1960 at an annual Christmas party hosted by her dad Edward’s employer, Great Lakes Steel, in Encorse, Michigan.
It’s a small world
Debbie Berger’s future husband, David, had his photo taken on Santa’s lap in 1958, at the same Sears store in Louisville, Kentucky, that she visited that year with her family.
“This 1950 picture of my daughter, Ronda Terry, shows her first visit to see Santa Claus,” says Dorothy Squire. “My husband took her to the Waites department store in Pontiac, Michigan. She looks a little wary. At 3 years old, she didn’t quite know what to think. Check out the funniest family Christmas photos.
Wonder and wishes
“We had just visited the Enchanted Village at Jordan Marsh in Boston when I went to see Santa Claus on Dec. 21, 1953,” writes Madeleine Ponder from Lakeville, Massachusetts. “I was four years old, and I was concerned because my parents raised me to speak only French, so I couldn’t understand what Santa was saying. I certainly didn’t want to disappoint him!”
Christmas time in the city
“This is one of those pictures that bring back wonderful childhood memories. It was taken at Lazarus Department Store in downtown Columbus, Ohio. Going to Lazarus was always a great adventure when we were children. Their street-level windows were always filled with beautiful displays at Christmas time. My older sister, Linda, went with me to see Santa in 1955,” says Mary Garvin.
“This is a picture of me, my mom, my aunt Doris, and my cousin Johnnie at Hudson’s in downtown Detroit, Michigan, visiting Santa. The year of the picture must be the late-1950s or early 1960s, as I was born in 1954,” says Mary Machen. Here’s everything you need to know about Costco’s holiday hours.
“My siblings, Olga and Ruben, 7 and 5, are all smiles while perched on Santa’s lap at a department store in San Francisco, California, in 1954. I was 2 years old at the time, but was so terrified of Santa that my one and only picture with him was taken when I was 8,” says Norma Pettit.
New coat for Christmas
“My mother ordered this coat from Sears Roebuck & Company in 1954. It arrived right before I was to visit Santa in Madison, Indiana, at the local Kelly Brothers Hardware Store. I was so thrilled with seeing Santa and wearing my new coat! He brought me my first record player that year, too!” says Carolyn Crafton Adams. Yes, there actually is a college for mall Santas.
Santa visits the hospital
A 1959 visit from St. Nick looks like good medicine for these kids at Gillette Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “My brother Clayton took this photo when he and the Minnesota Gopher Band were involved with the hospital,” says Charlene Heryla of Des Moines, Washington.
“A few days before Christmas in 1954, when I was 4 years old, I fell off a chair, splitting open my chin. My mother called our pediatrician, who came rushing to our house and said I needed stitches,” says Sandra Walton. “My mother told me if I was brave, I could open up the special Christmas present Gran and Grandpa sent from Toledo. I didn’t shed a single tear, and I got to open the present—an Eaton’s Beauty doll, the exact one I had asked Santa for at Eaton’s department store. I was thrilled!”
On Dasher and Dancer
Dorothy Sidney Smith and her brother Philip visit with Santa on his sleigh in Chicago, Illinois, during the 1930s. Surprising Christmas trivia will stump your family and friends.
Christmas in New York
“This picture shows my brother George and me, ages 5 and 8, visiting the bearded one at the W.T. Grant five and dime on Myrtle Avenue in Queens, New York, in 1949,” says Barbara Schmitt Py.
“A trip to downtown Cleveland, in the 1960s, was a big treat for my brother, Ken, my sister, Lucille, and me. We visited Halle’s to see Santa’s workshop and tell Santa what we wanted for Christmas. Then we saw the giant Christmas tree at the Sterling-Lindner department store,” says Mary Ann Wynalek of Cleveland, Ohio. Next, check out these vintage photos of Christmases past.