Christmas is celebrated in many different countries around the world. Whether you say Merry Christmas or Feliz Navidad or Fröhliche Weihnachten, the spirit of the holiday is the same. There are many great books available to introduce children to Christmas celebrations all over the world. Why not take a trip around the globe together and learn some new customs? While learning how people celebrate Christmas around the world, you may discover something you want to make into a family tradition of your own.
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*Yes, I realize there is a lot of Tomie dePaola on this list. I can’t help it that he writes great books about other countries and cultures, and that I love his work!
Stories from Europe
The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola introduces kids to Old Befana, an old Italian woman who spends her days sweeping and baking. After she misses her opportunity to see the Christ Child, she starts roaming Italy searching for him. While she searches, she brings gifts and baked goods to Italian children on Epiphany. Tomie dePaola’s warm and colorful illustrations will entertain children while teaching them about this Italian tradition.
Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker introduces readers to the celebration of St. Lucia Day in Sweden. Celebrated on December 13, St. Lucia Day marks the start of the Christmas season and signifies light in the darkest of times. This book provides readers with information on many of the traditions of the holiday, including coffee, baked goods and singing. Children will enjoy the colorful illustrations while parents will appreciate the recipes and patterns which can be used to further introduce kids to these traditions!
Cobweb Christmas: The Tradition of Tinsel by Shirley Climo retells an old German folktale which explains the tradition of tinsel on Christmas trees. Everyone wants to look at Tante’s beautiful Christmas tree – even the spiders who are swept outside of her house. When Kris Kringle stops by her house, he lets them inside and they spin beautiful decorations on her tree. This is a great tale explaining the tradition of a beloved Christmas decoration. The beautiful illustrations and the magical story will keep kids asking for this story for years to come.
Stories from North America and Africa
The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola illustrates the procession of Las Posadas in Santa Fe. Las Posadas is a celebration of Mary and Joseph’s travels in Bethlehem seeking shelter on Christmas Eve. When the flu and a snowstorm threaten the procession, a mysterious couple saves the day. Tomie dePaola’s vibrant illustrations transport the reader to the beautiful procession. Kids will enjoy the colorful artwork while learning Spanish words sprinkled throughout the text.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola tells the story of Lucida, a little girl in Mexico who wants to bring the baby Jesus a special gift for her village’s Christmas procession. When her plans to make a blanket fall through, she is left to gather what little she has around her to find a gift. As her simple gift of weeds transforms into beautiful red flowers, she learns that the thought behind the gift is what makes it special. Check out my previous post on this book here, for fun activities to pair with it!
A Stork in a Baobab Tree: An African 12 Days of Christmas by Catherine House reworks the classic Christmas carol “Twelve Days of Christmas” to show the Christmas season throughout Africa. The beautiful illustrations include tidbits of information on activities, homes, and holidays in different countries in Africa. This book is sure to entertain and inform kids both young and old.
There are so many wonderful stories from countries celebrating Christmas around the world. Why not introduce your children to different traditions from around the globe, and perhaps find some new family traditions in the process? What are some of your family traditions from different countries?