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R-J readers share their favorite photos of kids with Santa

We saw scared kids and excited kids and crying kids and smiling kids and pretty much every other variation one might devise on the theme of "kid meeting Santa Claus."

For the yuletide season, we asked readers to send us their favorite Santa photos. In return, we received just over 40 of the cutest, funniest, sweetest Santa photos imaginable. They were, in fact, so cute, funny and sweet that we had a hard time selecting just one for our prize.

But, in the end, it was the photo of 2-year-old Chandler Bloom’s encounter with Santa that most effectively melted our grinchy hearts. The photo was submitted by Las Vegas resident Pat Palamar, Chandler’s grandmother, who said it was taken in December 2002 in Orlando, Fla.

Why was it the winner? Because the mutually quizzical expressions on the faces of Chandler and Santa distill the kid-Santa dynamic so perfectly. Also, because it looks like a Norman Rockwell painting, as one of our judges noted.

In a note she sent along with the picture, Palamar recalls that Chandler "didn’t scream or cry when he was put on (Santa’s) lap, but he wouldn’t make eye contact with him, either. He answered Santa’s questions quietly with ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ but kept looking out at me beyond the throne area as if to say, ‘Help me!’ ”

When Santa asked Chandler who Palamar was, Chandler told him that it was his "GiGi" — his nickname for grandma — and when Santa saw that GiGi was in a wheelchair and couldn’t make it up to the throne platform, he got up from his throne, put Chandler on his hip and walked out to her.

"He came right over to me, put Chandler down next to us (and) asked what I wanted for Christmas," Palamar continues. "We exchanged Christmas greetings, and then he reached out, hugged me and gave me a candy cane from his bag. It was his way of letting Chandler know that there was no need for him to be afraid of Santa because GiGi wasn’t afraid of Santa."

Santa and Chandler returned to the throne and "had quite a conversation," Palamar says. Chandler now was "mesmerized by him, and the expression on Santa’s face is heartfelt. This picture, to me, epitomizes the relationship that every child should have with Santa."

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves, Pat. Thanks to all who sent in photos — we here offer a few more for you to enjoy — and here’s hoping that Santa is good to you this year.

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