How to Start a Christmas Book Tradition
I love Christmas time and I love celebrating Christmas with our kids! As a former early childhood teacher, I have long believed in celebrating the different seasons with good books. When we had children of our own, I started the tradition of giving Christmas story books each year.
I have dozens upon dozens of delightful Christmas books on our bookshelves. Yes, we read them every year, and yes, I continue to add to the collection. However, these are my Christmas books. I want my children to build their own collection of Christmas books. I want them to have copies of the Christmas books we loved to read that they can take with them into their own homes someday and share with their children.
I started their collections by looking through some of my own Christmas books and deciding what copies I wanted them to own. Other years, I found a new Christmas book that I thought everyone would enjoy. There are so many Christmas books available that it can be hard to figure out where to start. This is why I wanted to share these lists of Christmas story books for kids – in hopes that it will help you start your own Christmas book tradition.
Did you know that in Iceland, families all give one another books to read on Christmas Eve? I love that Christmas book tradition too.
At the beginning of each Christmas season, I fill a box with all our Christmas books. The children love reading through these books again – and so do I. The Christmas books are often read throughout the year because a good picture book is priceless. However, Christmas time is when we read Christmas book after Christmas book. We currently have upwards of 65 Christmas books and they don’t all fit in one bin anymore. None of us mind because we all love books! Reading Christmas books together is one of our favorite Christmas activities.
I have been doing this Christmas book tradition for 8 years now, since Nathan was a baby. You can see all the Christmas books I have given at the end of this post. Here are some the “rules” I have given myself for this Christmas book gift tradition.
I give all our children the same book – and I plan to continue doing so for the foreseeable future. There is a 2 year gap between all 4 of my kids, but even the older books will someday be appreciated by the younger ones. Giving everyone the same Christmas book helps simplify the process and keeps me organized.
I write inside the cover of each Christmas book with the child’s name and the Christmas year given, as well as with love from Mom and Dad. I want them to have a date attached to the books, as a Christmas memory.
I invest in hardcover books for this special Christmas book gift. I want them to have beautiful Christmas story books they will cherish – and hardcovers do tend to last better over the years. It is a worthwhile investment for a special Christmas gift.
I buy Christmas books year round. If I see a good book sale, I will buy multiple copies. Some times I buy the books on Amazon. Some times, I have to track down copies of out of print books on Ebay. You can find Christmas books in many surprising places if you are always looking. The books are then wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree for Christmas morning. By purchasing ahead of time, this allows me to save money and cross that off my to-do list early. Many years, I’m buying books a full year ahead for this book tradition!
As we have had babies over the years, I have added copies to their library of the Christmas books I already gave their siblings. Yes, this means the younger ones will have more Christmas books than Nathan, but can one ever have too many Christmas books? I think not.
While a tradition is a tradition, it is never too late to start a new tradition! You can start this Christmas book tradition this year even if your children are already in school. Have even older children? Surprise them with a box of several of their favorite Christmas books for their childhood. It will be a cherished gift.
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Ready to start your Christmas book tradition? Choose your favorite Christmas books to start with and go from there. Here are some of the Christmas story books that my family loves, divided by age brackets, to give you a starting place.
Best Christmas Board Books:
When you are starting to read books with your little ones, always start with board books! We read board books through preschool – especially if they are the complete version of the book.
- Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner imagines what snowmen do at night when they are celebrating Christmas. It is a cute story in board book and hardcover.
- Little Blue Truck’s Christmas by Alice Schertle is a cute rhyming book that has Little Truck sharing Christmas trees with his friends – and ends with lights on his Christmas tree!
Best Christmas Story Books for Preschoolers and Young Children:
Many of the Christmas books I chose to read, focus on the true meaning of Christmas and celebrating Jesus’ birthday. They are so many delightful Christmas stories out there for little ones! These are some of our favorite Christmas story books for preschoolers and Kindergarteners.
- is one of our favorite versions of the Nutcracker. It tells the traditional story with beautifully detailed illustrations that capture everyone’s attention.
Best Christmas Books for Older Children:
As children grow older, you can and should keep reading books to them – even picture books! There are some beautiful Christmas books written specifically for older children. Mary’s First Christmas is my absolute favorite, but all of these Christmas books are perfect for reading with older children.
- The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry and illustrated by P.J. Lynch adds lovely illustrations to O. Henry’s classic story of selfless giving at Christmas.
- It’s a Wonderful Life by Paul Ruditis puts the classic movie into beautiful picture book format – perfect for kids and adults! If you like the movie, this is a beautiful retelling of the story in picture book format. (I already bought 4 copies of this book, waiting for when the children are a bit a older to appreciate it.)
Best Christmas Hymns illustrated in Christmas Books:
We sing a lot and read a lot in my family, so I love having books that we can sing. For me to include a book on this list, it has to have the hymn verses we already know.
- Good King Wenceslas by John M. Neale
- Away in a Manger illustrated by Thomas Kinkade
- Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne
- The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
- The Friendly Beasts by Tomie dePaola
- O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by Edward Riojas
Best Christmas Songs illustrated in Christmas Books:
There are so many popular Christmas songs, it is a shame that more of them haven’t been illustrated yet! Here are some of the best Christmas song books we have found so far.
- Jingle Bells illustrated by Susan Jeffers
- The 12 Days of Christmas illustrated by Emma Randall
- Frosty the Snowman by Jack Rollins
- Walking in a Winter Wonderland by Richard Smith
- Deck the Halls illustrated by Sylvia Long
Our Yearly Christmas Book Tradition Choices (So Far):
I have gone from buying one Christmas book to buying four each Christmas. As we have added children to our family, I have backtracked for the younger ones and added a couple of the earlier books that their siblings have. I love watching the kids find their copy of their own Christmas story book to read.
Here are the books I have given our children since we started our Christmas book tradition. I will keep updating this list over the Christmases to come.
- Little Blue Truck’s Christmas (2014) – Nathan was a baby and our only child, when we started this Christmas tradition. He loved the Little Blue Truck books so this was a fun way to start his Christmas book collection.
- (2015) – This was a new discovery when Nathan was little (and I was pregnant with Emma) so I went ahead and bought 2 copies of this cute story. Now, all four kids have their own copy!
- Mary Engelbreit’s Nutcracker (2016) – There are so many great Nutcracker versions and my kids love them all! This one is our absolute favorite version of the Nutcracker for the beautiful illustrations.
- Good King Wenceslas (2017) – It was a tradition in my family to sing all 5 verses of this song on St. Stephen’s Day (December 26). When I found a book that had all the verses, I knew I had to buy it for the kids so they could learn it too.
- The Christmas Star (2018) – I loved reading this one to my class when I was a Kindergarten teacher and knew I wanted to track down copies of this book for all of the kids. It’s a bit hard to find but if you can find it, it is a gorgeous version of the Christmas story. Plus, it continues all the way through the wise men appearing at Jesus’ house when he was a little child.
- (2019) – There are several legend stories that tie into Christmas but the candy cane one is a classic. We have been reading this book for years but now the children have a copy of their own. There is an older version and newer version of this book – same words, just updated illustrations.
- Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner (2020) – This is such a cute story about snowmen. We love all the books in this series, so this was a great addition to their Christmas book tradition.
- The Legend of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall (2021) – I stumbled upon this book at a bargain price of $1.99 last year and snapped up copies to save for this Christmas. This was one of the books I had planned to do eventually but I am thrilled I found such a great bargain!
- The Visit of the Wise Men by Martha Jander (2022) – This version tells of the Wise Men appearing at the house where the child Jesus was. I found this book on clearance last January and bought 4 copies to set aside for this Christmas.
Do you give Christmas books to your children? If so, what is one of your favorite Christmas books?
This year I purchased O Come O Come Emmanuel for our collection. It was just released this year with illustrations by Edward Riojas and it’s beautiful!
My favorite as a kid was Arthur’s Christmas 🙂
Love this idea! We’ve acquired quite a collection of Christmas books as well, but it never occurred to me to get copies for all the kids. Something I will have to consider for sure!