Turn on the television during the holiday season and you’re bound to find a wide variety of Christmas movies from which to choose. Santa, snow and sleigh bells are everywhere this time of year.

But one important element that makes these festive flicks so special is the bright young faces of children, whose innocence, faith and whimsy so aptly portray the spirit of the season.

Here, MovieMaker takes a look back at some of the most memorable performances by children in holiday movies (and incidentally made a list of pretty good stocking stuffers, too).

Natalie Wood in Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Natalie Wood stars as Susan Walker, a nonbeliever-turned-friend (and defender) of Kris Kringle, in Miracle on 34th Street. As a little girl taught to reject fantasy by her mother, Susan is shocked to discover that the Macy’s Santa she meets is actually the real thing. Wood’s innocent portrayal restores faith in the Christmas spirit (for those both in the movie’s fictional world and in the audience). This classic Christmas tale is one full of hope that leaves you with the warm and fuzzy feeling associated with the holidays.

Peter Billingsley in A Christmas Story (1983)
It wouldn’t be Christmas without the annual television marathon of A Christmas Story. Peter Billingsley stars as Ralphie Parker, a young boy who has one Christmas wish—to find a Red Ryder BB gun under the Christmas tree. A rambunctious and determined kid, his hilarious and unfortunate circumstances find him swearing in front of his father, gathering the courage to beat up the school bully and donning that unforgettable pink bunny suit. Every holiday season, hordes of first-time viewers become instant fans of this dysfunctional holiday classic.

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone (1990)
Who can forget the iconic scene in which a young Macaulay Culkin screams as he slaps his cheeks with aftershave? In the modern Christmas classic Home Alone, Culkin stars as Kevin McCallister, a boy forgotten at home when his family flies to Paris for the holidays. Left to defend his house from two inept burglars, Kevin uses wits and a whole lot of moxie to outsmart his dimwitted foes and save his house, all in time for his family to return home and celebrate the holidays.

Taylor Momsen

Taylor Momsen in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
Long before this “Gossip Girl” was a hit on network television, Taylor Momsen starred as Cindy Lou Who in Ron Howard’s screen version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. In this remake of the classic Dr. Seuss tale, Momsen’s character sees past the empty commercialism of Christmas and changes Whoville history forever by befriending the Grinch and inviting him to the town’s Christmas celebration. Momsen’s Cindy Lou shows the inclusive and loving spirit of the holidays, inspiring everyone to believe that just one person can make a difference.

Thomas Sangster in Love Actually (2003)
He stole everyone’s hearts in Love Actually as the lovesick young boy Sam, who wants one thing for Christmas: The object of his affection. Well-spoken and incredibly mature for his age, he commiserates with his stepfather on the pitfalls of love, calling it “total agony.” He learns the drums to impress his crush at the big school play, and in a grand gesture he races to the airport to tell her he loves her only minutes before her plane takes flight. In a cast of well-known thespians like Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson, Sangster manages to hold his own and warm people’s hearts with the thought of young love.

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