I love advent calendars. They’re the anticipation of Christmas made concrete for kids and adults alike. But as my kids began opening the numbered door for each day, things became a little less celebratory. The kids would squabble about taking turns, who got the piece of chocolate, or who opened the wrong number. No one cared about the idea behind the advent calendar. I wanted the holidays to be a time of family togetherness to focus on the meaning of the season as we counted down the days.
So I decided to start a new tradition I call “24 days of holiday books.” The premise is simple: Each day the family reads one holiday-themed book together. The books help kids learn and appreciate the various winter holidays that are celebrated all over the world, from Christmas and Hanukkah to Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice.
Beginning on the first of December my kids find a basket in the living room filled with holiday books. (You could gift wrap each book if you have the time!) This project involves a lot of books, so we use our library and slowly build our collection by buying one or two new books a year. If you use the library, be sure to plan ahead so you get the books you want.
To make things a little more interesting you could invite another family member to read. Grandparents, aunts or uncles are fantastic for this, and even if they live far away you can video chat the book reading.
Here are some popular choices to get you started:
- “The Story of Hanukkah” by David A. Adler — This bestselling book tells the story of the courageous Maccabees. It comes with a traditional recipe for latkes so you can celebrate the festivities together after reading the book.
- “Great Joy” by Kate DiCamillo — A favorite children’s book author tells a sweet story about a girl, an organ player, a monkey and joy.
- “Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa” by Carolyn Otto — This wonderful book by National Geographic Kids focuses on the African-American holiday of Kwanzaa. The book has beautiful photos and explains what all the traditional symbols mean.
- “The Shortest Day” by Susan Cooper — This delightful poem by Newbery Medalist Susan Cooper is about solstice traditions from our ancestors and the celebration of community and light.
- “The Polar Express” by Chris Van Allsburg — This timeless favorite will enchant even the oldest kids.
- “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” by Susan Wojciechowski — A tender story about how we can spread joy to others.
- “The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” by Gloria Houston — A family in a small Appalachian town seeks to hold onto Christmas traditions while the father is away.
- “The Joy of Giving” by Jan Berenstain — A fun story with our favorite bears shows kids the joy of giving gifts.
- “The Christmas Wish” — This captivating tale about one of Santa's elves teaches kids about kindness and working together.
- “A Wish to be a Christmas Tree” by Colleen Monroe — All the animals of the forest help the lonely pine that feels passed over at Christmas.
- “The Little Fir Tree” by Margaret Wise Brown — A sweet story of an ordinary tree with a big dream.
- “Hanukkah Cookies with Sprinkles” — This touching story of a young girl who helps someone in need teaches kids about the importance of kindness.
- “The Snowy Day Board Book” by Ezra Jack Keats — This classic tale is a celebration of winter and the wonder of nature for kids.
- “Little Red Sleigh” by Erin Guendelsger — This heartwarming Christmas book has positive messages about hope and kindness.
- “A Christmas Book for Kids About the Different Holidays That Bring Us Together!” by Sesame Workshop — From Hanukkah and Kwanzaa to Christmas and New Year’s, this picture book celebrates all the different cultures and holidays from around the world.
- “The Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore — A classic holiday poem that stands the test of time.
- “Bear Stays Up for Christmas” by Karma Wilson — Bear and his friends discover the true meaning of Christmas in this sweet picture book.
- “An Orange for Frankie” by Patricia Polacco — This old Christmas tale has an important lesson about tradition and giving.
- “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss — No holiday book list would be complete without the classic story of the Grinch discovering what Christmas is really about.