Cover Collection: A Child’s Christmas

As adults, we delight in a child’s wonder at Christmastime. But are children truly that innocent? These vintage Post covers say otherwise.

Boy pulling Santa's head out of a large, antique trunk

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“The Discovery” From December 29, 1956
The Discovery
Norman Rockwell
December 29, 1956

As adults, we delight in rediscovering a child’s innocence — especially as it recalls our own days of wonder. But are children truly innocent? Many of the following illustrations suggest children possess a bit more worldliness than we give them credit for.

Of course, there is growing up to do — and painful, um, learning experiences to be had along the way. Notice how Norman Rockwell brings a shocking discovery to life with realistic touches — the nicks in the wood of the parent’s vintage dresser, the scratchy-looking strands of fake beard, and those mothballs scattered on the floor.

Toddler holding a giant christmas stocking
Giant Christmas Stocking
Ellen Pyle
December 18, 1926

Pyle’s paintings were extremely popular and appeared on more than 40 Post covers. They were often a family affair, as one or more of the artist’s four children modeled for many of her illustrations, including this one. Pyle adds a dash of humor in the incongruous appearance of a pocket watch – an item that has clearly been misappropriated by the overreaching toddler.

Toddler reaching into a sock
Christmas Stocking Joy
J.C. Leyendecker
December 24, 1938

Here we experience nothing less than gift delirium – the frantic zeal with which children attack their share of holiday bounty. This toddler, with the experience of just two Christmases, at most, shows, the determination and energy of a more seasoned child as he digs into dad’s argyle sock. It’s thrilling, yes, but perhaps a bit much for the youngster to bear. Can a tantrum be far behind?

“Choir Boys Will Be Boys” by Frances Tipton Hunter
Choir Boys Will Be Boys
Frances Tipton Hunter
December 10, 1938

Perhaps there’s a reason that choirs are often kept in the back of the church – and out of sight. Though Hunter had no children of er own, she made a career of celebrating the true spirit of childhood in all its untidiness.

Children descending stairs on Christmas morning
Christmas Morning
John Falter
December 24, 1955

A lesser artist would have shown the children’s rapturous delight upon first spying their assembled gifts. But Falter leaves us in that sweet moment of anticipation: the Christmas that is always about to arrive.

Boy pulling Santa's head out of a large, antique trunk
Truth About Santa
Richard Sargent
December 15, 1951

The end of innocence? This Sargent cover actually predates Rockwell’s better known version by a few years. According to this 1951 issue of the Post, the boy in is illustration “will inquire why Santa Claus left his clothes and part of his head in the attic.”


These illustrations and many others are featured in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, Norman Rockwell: Christmas in America. This edition can be ordered here.

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  1. Contrasting the top and bottom covers, Rockwell’s is delivering out and out SHOCK, whereas the older Sargent cover is more of a surprise to this boy. Sargent’s cover is just as great as Rockwell’s but the latter will always win out in popularity because it’s Rockwell, and has the shock value to boot. It’s not fair, but life frequently isn’t.

    Love the Leyendecker tot and his toys, but hopefully someone IS around because no, a tantrum is NOT far behind—at all. Maybe some hugs, hearing the child out, the promise of a fun day and some hot cocoa with marshmallows will make everything okay again.

    Also love the ‘Choir Boys’ cover. Did boy #3 and #5 have a fight recently? I think maybe so. Ellen Pyle’s beautiful cover shows a little girl much happier with HER gifts than our little fellow 12 years later.

    Hopefully the kids in John Falter’s cover are happy with theirs, but we don’t know. The colors of the kid’s pj’s against the blue stair carpeting is simple, extremely effective and goes right along with what’s in the next room. I bet they’re quiet. It’s only 6:10 am and they don’t want to wake up their parents—right? Great POST covers, once again, all lit up online.

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