There was an awful lot of great work out there today. Really, too much to try to take note of.

However, let’s give it a try anyway, shall we?

Take special note of my picks of the ten best pages of the day, mixed into the categories below in no particular order…

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PHOTO-DRIVEN FRONT PAGES

No. 1: DENVER POST

Denver, Colo.

Circulation: 401,120

The Denver Post today built page one around this beautiful picture of the moon smiling down upon what appears to be a lit Christmas Tree in the open mountains of Colorado.

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The picture is by staffer Helen H. Richardson.

No. 2: ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

Santa Ana, Calif.

Circulation: 280,812

Not only is this poster-front of a surfin’ Santa and his reindeer fun and gorgeous, there’s also a fun story behind the picture by staffer Leonard Ortiz.

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Staffer Karen Kelso explains in a “how we did it” story in today’s Orange County Register:

We moved everyone toward the water. Tundra [a two-year-old reindeer] followed easily because we discovered he would do just about anything for a graham cracker. Everything was fine until we stepped off the warm beach on to the cold, wet sand. Tundra started to buck and throw his rack around. [Animal rental guy Tim]Connaghan never lost his cool and tried to hold on to the reins. Tundra decided to make a break for it and only calmed down when more graham crackers were dispersed.

Photographing a live animal was going to be a real challenge, especially with the crowd that was forming and Tundra showing his displeasure.

Ortiz photographed Tundra and Santa as they walked, ran and bucked their way down the beach. Tundra demanded more graham crackers at several points during the shoot.

Surfers came out of the water into our shot because they wanted to touch Tundra. Reindeer do not like to be touched, and touching their antlers is a sign of aggression.

The trouble was worth it. What a great picture.

A number of other papers built their front pages around huge, poster-sized photos presumably shot by staffers. Neither of these examples were accompanied by photo credits, sadly. (UPDATE – 10:30 p.m. The Wichita photo was shot by staffer Travis Heying.)

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On the left: the Wichita, Kan., Eagle, circulation 67,250. On the right: The Chronicle of Elyria, Ohio, circulation 25,892.

These two papers built  holiday-themed montages with locally-shot pictures.

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On the left: The State Journal of Lansing, Mich., circulation 41,330. On the right: The Statesman Journal of Salem, Ore., circulation 36,946, attempted to use pictures to illustrate commonly-known Christmas songs.

In particular, I think the page topper on the right, here — by the Telegram & Gazette of Worcester, Mass., circulation 74,563 — is particularly attractive.

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On the left: The Daily Gazette of Taunton, Mass., circulation 6,703.

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FRONTS FEATURING RELIGIOUS IMAGERY

No. 3: THE STATE

Columbia, S.C.

Circulation: 70,980

Naturally, if you’re going to give readers a huge Christmas card on page one, some readers might prefer to see one with a religious angle. Tim Dominick of the State of Columbia, S.C., built this lovely photoillustration for today’s centerpiece.

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The Dispatch of Brainerd, Minn. — below left; circulation 11,307 — shot a local manger reenactment. The photoillustration is credited to staffers Kelly Humphrey and Jan Finger.

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The Hutchinson (Kansas) News ran a classic piece by Raphael — the painter, not the ninja turtle — supplied by a local church. The Hawk Eye of Burlington, Iowa, used art from a German Christmas card published in 1912.

Average daily circulation for the Hutchinson News is 25,722. The Hawk Eye circulates 15,943 papers daily.

And stained-glass windows depicting the birth of Christ are a very popular page-one topic for Christmas Day.

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The Capital-Journal of Topeka, circulation 40,435, and the Repository of Canton, Ohio, circulation 56,789, had staffers shoot windows in local churches. The Leader and Times of Liberal, Kansas, circulation 3,700, ran a huge staff picture taken in a church in England.

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FRONTS FEATURING ILLUSTRATION WORK

No. 4: PLAIN DEALER

Cleveland, Ohio

Circulation: 246,571

There are few better things to run on a Christmas Day poster-page treatment, I think, than a staff illustration. Check out this gorgeous piece in today’s Plain Dealer by Andrea Levy.

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No. 5: SUN-GAZETTE

Williamsport, Pa.

Circulation: 22,795

Likewise, here’s a beautiful painting of a snow-covered Pennsylvania church by who I presume is an artist in the Williamsport area: Mickey Mapstone.

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Gorgeous stuff.

The Journal Sentinel of Milwaukee runs an annual contest for art to feature on page one on Christmas Day. This year’s winner: Dottie Morelle Godden. Average daily circulation of the Journal Sentinel is 185,710.

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The Post-Gazette of Pittsburgh — circulation 188,545 — led the top of page one today with a painting from a local gallery by artist Charles “Bud” Gibbons.

And these two Pennsylvania newspapers elected to go with (what I presume are) staff-generated illustrations to evoke days of Christmast past.

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On the left: The Times-Tribune of Scranton, circulation 47,663. The art is by Bob Sanchuk. On the right: The Standard-Speaker of Hazleton, circulation 20,008. The art isn’t credited.

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FRONTS FEATURING SECULAR IMAGERY

No. 6: DAILY PRESS

Newport News, Va.

Circulation: 57,642

I was especially delighted this morning with this lovely page-one “package” from the Daily Press of Newport News, Va.

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That’s an old gimmick — I’ve used it a time or two myself — but the Daily Press pulls it off particularly well here. Note the clever promos to stuff inside.

I presume this is stock art of some sort afront the Standard of Aiken, S.C. (left, circulation 15,711). Even so, it’s well-used here.

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The Star of Anniston, Ala. — circulation 19,563 — elected to create its own Santa Claus image for today’s front-page poster treatment. That was shot by staffer Stephen Gross.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT THE STORY

A number of papers took the time today to write truly great front-page stories for Christmas Day — perhaps the one day of the year when hardly anyone will take the time to read them.

Some of these were beautifully done.

No. 7: HUNTSVILLE TIMES

Huntsville, Ala.

Circulation: 44,725

The Huntsville Times today published favorite Christmas memories of days gone by.

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While the presentation itself is a little text-heavy, I’d argue: It should be. In this case, it’s all about the story. At least a clear presentation and liberal use of white space keep all those grey legs of type from overpowering the reader.

The one minus to this page that I’ve found: In my search to find a link to the story — and I was forced to search an awful long time for it — I found that the story here was published two weeks ago.

Not to beat a dead horse on Christmas Day, but: I really don’t understand Advance Publications’ thinking. Digital first is one thing. But running a two-week old story as the page one-centerpiece? That baffles me.

Whatever, though. Ho, ho, ho and all…

No. 8: STAR TRIBUNE

Casper, Wyo.

Circulation: 24,891

In Casper, Wyo., the Star Tribune ran a wonderful story today about the little vacation that all Santa’s local helpers can take now that the season is over.

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The wonderful portrait is by staffer Alan Rogers. The page was designed by Will Gay, I’m told.

Find the story here by staffer Jeremy Fugleberg.

The Asbury Park Press also had local folks share Christmas memories (below, left). The Mail Tribune of Medford, Ore., asked readers to list their favorite things, kind of like that song from the Sound of Music.

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Average daily circulation for the Asbury Park paper is 98,032. Medford circulates 22,292 papers daily.

The York, Pa., Daily Record cited a number of interesting local Christmas facts, all presented on a tree illustrated by staffer Samantha Dellinger.

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The Victoria Advocate ran a story today focusing on a woman raising five grandchildren who lost her home to fire in September and how the community reached out to help. The pictures are by staffer Frank Tilley.

Average daily circulation for the York Daily Record is 57,738; for the Victoria Advocate is 26,531.

Iowa City built its front around a fiction tale about Christmas, offered in print (and illustrated by the Des Moines Register‘s Mark Marturello) and online in both standard HTML format and in digital storybook form.

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The Press-Tribune of Nampa, Idaho, wrote about a local Christmas-themed blood drive. The ribbon-decorated bag of blood was shot by staffer Aaric Bryan.

Average daily circulation in Iowa City is 12,130. Nampa circulates 19,900 papers daily.

And two papers chose to fill their fronts with classic text evoking holiday spirits. The Hour of Norwalk, Conn. (left) chose the lyrics to Silent Night while the Missourian of Columbia, Mo., went with the classic “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” letter and reply from the New York Sun, 115 years ago.

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Average daily circulation for the Hour is 14,971. The Missourian circulates 21,722 papers daily.

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MY FAVORITE OF THE DAY

My favorite work of the day, however, was the series of snow globe illustrations, custom-built in Gannett’s Des Moines Design Studio for a number of the company’s Wisconsin papers.

In each globe, the imagery depicts something important to that town.

No. 9: GANNETT WISCONSIN PAPERS

Check these out. Here’s the Daily Herald of Wausau (circulation 15,506)…

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…the Press-Gazette of Green Bay (circulation 41,767)…

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The Press of Sheboygan (circulation 14,246)…

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…and the Northwestern of Oshkosh (circulation 14,113).

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The studio also built a Christmas tree ornament treatment for a few of the chain’s smaller papers.

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From left: The News-Herald of Marshfield (circulation 8,139), the Herald Times Reporter of Manitowoc (circulation 10,253) and the Journal of Stevens Point (circulation 7,845).

Wisconsin design team leader Sean McKeown-Young took a moment from his Christmas celebration to tell us:

Yes, I did all of the illustration. Basically one snowglobe design which was concocted of several images and them each site got a different treatment inside. Same goes for the ornaments.

Check out his Thanksgiving Day illustrations here.

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A TOUCHING CHRISTMAS MEMORIAL

No. 10: JOURNAL NEWS

White Plains, N.Y.

Circulation: 72,764

And from the northern suburbs of New York comes this reminder of the horror of the past few weeks and what’s really important on Christmas: Our children.

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That’s a beautiful memorial to the victims of the Newtown, Conn., shootings.

Great work by the folks in Gannett’s Asbury Park Design Studio.

If someone there can tell me who designed this page, I’d love to dole out a little credit here.

UPDATE – 10:30 p.m.

Tim Frank, director of the Asbury Park Studio tells us:

That was the work of team leader Joanne Sosangelis.

Have a great Christmas, everybody!

These pages are from the Newseum. Of course.