- Spending quality time together, whether that means reading books, playing fun family board games (i.e. not Candyland), or just enjoying each other’s company,
- Expressing gratitude for our blessings and finding ways to give to others, and
The Problem With Some Christmas Books for KidsSince becoming parents, we’ve amassed a small but treasured collection of favorite Christmas picture books. These are books we love as much as our kids do, so we don’t mind reading them again and again every December. But early on in our quest to find the best Christmas books for kids, we realized something unfortunate about some of the holiday stories out there: they were long and preachy. I certainly don’t mind reading a longer picture book if my kids are into it. But my 5-year-old bookworm started doing something that made me realize some of the children’s Christmas books may be too long for their target audience. This is a child who would happily listen to me read a stack of 50 picture books in one sitting. But for some of these holiday books, she would turn to me after we were a few pages into the story and say, “Mommy, can we stop reading this now?” As it turns out, kids don’t really want to listen to a lecture disguised as a children’s book. So we focused on finding the best Christmas books that we can share with our children to celebrate the spirit of the holiday season. Related: The Most Meaningful Gifts for Kids Who Have Everything
The Best Children’s Books That Will Make Your Child’s Holiday MagicalThe goal of my family’s months-long research project to find Christmas books for kids was simple: find the best books that both kids and parents will enjoy. (Because if our kids are going to ask us to read a Christmas story again and again, it may as well be something we appreciate, too!) Every week, I put a huge stack of books on hold at the library, plus at every visit I browsed the shelves for even more children’s Christmas books – not to mention every Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other winter holiday book I could find. While we celebrate Christmas in our family, I want my kids to understand, appreciate, and respect the holidays celebrated by other families. All told, my kids and I read hundreds of picture books on the topic of Christmas and other winter holidays. The list below is the cream of the crop from those hundreds of books: the books I loved reading, and the books my kids couldn’t get enough of. Read these Christmas books for kids to get your whole family excited about the holiday season. Related: 42 Experience Gifts That Will Make You Everyone’s Favorite Person
Bonus: How to Turn This List Into a Festive Book Advent CalendarFor an extra special way to share these Christmas books with your children, many families enjoy sharing holiday stories through book Advent calendars. Here’s how you start a Christmas book Advent tradition:
- Get copies of 25 children’s Christmas books from this list. If you’re on a budget, most of these titles are available used for cheap, or you can also check them out from the library.
- Wrap the books and stack them next to your Christmas tree. (If you’re borrowing them from the library, just be careful with the tape and tell your kids the library is letting you borrow them.)
- Every day in December, let your children pick one book to open. If you have more than one kid, taking turns every day works well.
- Enjoy a different Christmas story every day as a family.
32 Most Heartfelt and Meaningful Christmas Books for KidsAnd now for your list of the most magical Christmas books for kids that you’ll want to share with your family every December! But first, a quick warning: I was surprised to find that many of our favorite children’s Christmas books are now out of print. If you see a book on this list you’d like to pick up for your family, you may want to do it this year rather than waiting until next year. I learned the hard way – some books I’d planned on picking up copies of this year are now out of print, and now they’re not available anywhere online. Ack! Also, to keep things simple, you should know that we skipped over any holiday sequels to other children’s books. If a holiday version of one of your kid’s favorite children’s books is out there, go for it!
Note: indicates my family’s absolute top favorites on the list. These are the books my kids can’t get enough of!
Classic Children’s Christmas BooksWhen it comes to the best Christmas books for kids, you can’t beat the classics. Every family seems to have their own favorite, but after reading aaaaaaaallllllllllllll the classic holiday tales in a short period of time, these are the ones our whole family loved most of all.
- The Night Before Christmas, illustrated by Holly Hobbie – Out of all the countless renditions of this Christmas classic, this is the one you need in your home. Not only are the illustrations the most magical I’ve seen for this story (and I’ve seen a lot of versions of this one!), my kids loved that the illustrator featured a child’s perspective in addition to the father’s. Surprising and beautiful and perfect. If you’re looking for a different style of illustration, we also loved the version illustrated by Charles Santore and the fresh retelling by Rachel Isadora. (Beware that the latter isn’t available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble anymore, so you’ll have to check your library.)
- The Polar Express – No matter how many times I read this story, I always get choked up at the end. And even though all my kids know the truth about Santa, something about this book tugs at my heart and makes me want to believe. It doesn’t get more magical than this classic children’s Christmas book. Just beware that it’s a little on the longer side, so grab a mug of apple cider and settle in for a cozy read.
- The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers or The Nutcracker in Harlem – Many families have a tradition of going to see The Nutcracker ballet every year, but our youngest kids are still too little to appreciate it, so instead we immerse ourselves in retellings of the story. But we couldn’t decide on a favorite between these two! The illustrations are gorgeous in both, and the retellings are unique. This also works great for explaining the story ahead of time to help younger kids follow along with the story when they’re watching it live. (That will make them less likely to “whisper” questions to you asking what’s going on during the show.) For an interactive experience, try The Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker, which has readers press a button on each page to hear a snippet of Tchaikovsky’s music. A beautiful way to experience The Nutcracker!
- The Little Match Girl – This is a classic holiday story from Hans Christian Andersen that I remember reading as a child, so I wanted to share it with my children too. Fair warning: You will probably cry. But even though this isn’t a cheerful holiday story, it’s still one of our favorites. It’s the reminder we need every year that winter isn’t always a joyful time for too many people around the world. This story always makes us reflect on our blessings and think of how we can help others who may be struggling this holiday season. Of all the classic children’s Christmas books we read together as a family, this one made the biggest impact on my kids.
Heartwarming Christmas Books for KidsOut of the hundreds of children’s Christmas books we read, these are the most heartfelt and meaningful stories we came across. You’ll want to share these with your child every year!
- Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem – This Maya Angelou masterpiece should be in every collection of Christmas books for kids. If poetry isn’t your thing, don’t let the subtitle “A Christmas Poem” turn you off this gem. As you read, this book fills your soul. It finds all the cracks and fissures created by hardships and disappointment and just fills them right up with a warm golden light. This beautiful story captures the magic of the Christmas season, and I’m so thankful our little Christmas book research project brought it to my family.
- Red and Lulu – Through gorgeous artwork, we follow the story of two cardinals who live in a beautiful evergreen tree but get separated accidentally. With so many Christmas books for kids being focused on Santa and the materialistic side of the holiday season, this book is a refreshing story that has nothing to do with buying stuff or getting stuff. Plus, your kids will get a fascinating history lesson about the real Rockefeller tree and a world-famous Christmas tradition. You have to read this one! So, so good.
- Night Tree – If you pick up only three books from this list, you need Amazing Peace, Red and Lulu, and this heartwarming little story. This is an older book and it’s available only in paperback, so you may want to move fast on this one before it’s officially out of print. In this story, you see a young boy and his family heading to the forest for an annual holiday tradition. Their tradition will make you go “awww” but my absolute favorite part is the relationship between the boy and his little sister. Everyone with a sibling will definitely be able to relate! I never get tired of reading this beautiful book to my kids. A new family favorite!
- Christmas Farm – What a little gem of a book! A woman decides to plant Christmas trees on her land, so she enlists the help of a boy who lives next door. We loved their sweet friendship, and also we loved learning all about the process of growing Christmas trees. My kids were shocked at how long it takes! The book has a great way of demonstrating the length of time in a way kids can easily understand. This one’s in our regular nightly rotation during the holiday season.
- The Christmas Boot – This book surprised me. Each page has more text than I would typically expect my toddler to be able to sit through, but she was engrossed in this story. It has an old-timey folktale feel to it, but it’s actually an original story by Lisa Wheeler. This is a beautiful, magical Christmas tale, and it sparked some great conversations with my kids about deciding to do what’s right even if it’s hard or uncomfortable. Side note: The author wrote this book in honor of her friend Linda Smith, one of my favorite children’s books authors of all-time who passed away from cancer. (If you haven’t read Mrs. Biddlebox, promise me you will find a copy and share it with your child. It’s out of print, but Amazon still has a few used copies left, or you can check your library!)
- Great Joy – In this story set in the 1940s, a young girl notices an organ grinder and his pet monkey out in the cold on the street. The girl’s journey of awareness and then finding her voice for change is powerful. The ending also sparked a lot of discussion with my children about how we can help those in need during the holiday season. Beautifully illustrated and written.
- The Christmas Magic – This gentle Christmas picture book is perfect as a bedtime read-aloud. The lyrical text (like when “Santa feels a tingling in his whiskers”) and watercolor illustrations are beautiful, but what I love most of all is how this imagining of Santa captures the anticipation of Christmas, which is something children can very much relate to. Also, I appreciate how this book shows all the hard, thoughtful work that Santa puts into getting ready for the big day. That can help build kids’ gratitude about the holiday season: all the fun stuff is possible because someone who loves them did the work to make it happen.
- A Houseful of Christmas – This book is older and seems to be out of print, so it might be hard to get your hands on. But if you typically visit extended family for the holiday season or if you have a big immediate family, this is a must-have for your children’s Christmas book collection. I loved how this book captured the chaos and fun of a big family, and it just felt plain cozy to read with my kids cuddled up around me. An absolutely sweet, heartwarming holiday tale!
- A Homemade Together Christmas – This story starts out with a pig family that’s decorating for the holidays, and they decide to give each other homemade gifts for Christmas. The youngest pig Luca has trouble thinking of something he can make, and everything he tries to make doesn’t turn out well. So finally, he settles on the perfect gift. I don’t want to ruin the surprise, but if you want to show your kids that the best part of Christmas is spending time together, this is the perfect book to show just that. This story is so stinkin’ cute!
- Christmas Cookies: Bite-Size Holiday Lessons – During the holiday season, we tend to throw around abstract words that our kids don’t quite understand. Words like “tradition,” “gratitude,” and “peace.” What I love about this book is how it brings those abstract concepts to life for children. Plus, in our family we go a bit bananas over Christmas cookies, so it was the perfect analogy for our kids to really dig into the concepts and learn what they mean. And as if we needed an excuse to make (more) cookies, the book ends with a cookie recipe!
- Pick a Pine Tree – Every year on the day after Thanksgiving, we get this book out and read it while enjoying a cup of hot cocoa (with extra marshmallows!), then head out to pick out our Christmas tree as a family. This book is all about the tradition of picking a Christmas tree and the fun of decorating it, so it’s the perfect story to pair with your own tree tradition. Plus, the illustrations have a fun, retro vibe that will put a smile on your face.
- Christmas Day in the Morning – This heartfelt story is on the longer side, so it’s best for older kids who have a longer attention span. The main character is a young boy who wants to get his hard-working father something for Christmas, but he doesn’t have any money to spend. What he comes up with in the end will warm even the Scroogiest of hearts.
- The Last Christmas Tree – In a parking lot filled with big, beautiful Christmas trees, one little tree anxiously awaits its turn to get picked. But then it gets passed over again and again, until it’s all alone on Christmas Eve. This story encourages kids to see the beauty and value in all things, even when they’re not the biggest and “best.”
- Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole – Such a delightful little book! It opens with a typewritten note: “Santa is a man of many talents. He’s a toymaker, a reindeer trainer, a sleigh pilot, and a world traveler. But did you know he is also a poet?” Then you get one fun haiku for every day from December 1-25. The short poems feature vignettes of Santa’s life leading up to the big day, like Mrs. Claus making snow angels and Santa untangling Christmas lights. Thanks to the suggestion of other reviewers, we’ll be keeping this by our free printable Advent calendar so we can read one a day throughout December. Side benefit: After reading this the first time, it inspired our kids to write their own holiday-themed haiku!
Silly And Funny Children’s Christmas BooksFor a fun break from the heartwarming Christmas picture books, mix in one of these silly, funny tales.
- The 12 Days of Christmas – This is the book that finally taught our family the correct order of all the gifts in the song “The 12 Days of Christmas.” And as a bonus, the story told through the illustrations is hilarious. Side note: At the end of the book the first time we read it, my 5-year-old turned me and said, “Why would somebody give all that for Christmas, anyway?” That prompted me to look up the history of the song, where I discovered that the song’s original intention was most likely to be a memory game of sorts. Who knew?
- Morris’s Disappearing Bag – What a quirky, adorable little Christmas story! If you have more than one child, this is a story that will resonate even more deeply with them. The youngest will understand how Morris feels left out, and the oldest will get a big dose of empathy for their younger sibling. But don’t worry because it’s not heavy-handed at all. It’s light, silly, and a joy to read over and over. I’m so happy we discovered this hidden gem of a Christmas picture book!
- The Christmas Crocodile – My kids adore this odd little Christmas story and are currently asking for it every single day. My hunch is that every time the crocodile misbehaves and I read the refrain of “The Christmas Crocodile didn’t mean to be bad, not really,” my younger kids can relate to those moments where they give into their impulses and then regret it afterwards. The part I love most is when the little girl in the story gets frustrated with the crocodile, but then she feels a twinge of sympathy and decides to give him another chance. This is a funny Christmas story of redemption tailor-made for kids whose little brains are still working on developing impulse control.
- How Murray Saved Christmas – The first time I read this silly, offbeat Christmas story to my kids, I could not stop smiling. Then the kids started giggling (even the 10-year-old), and I got the giggles too. What an absolutely fun read! The story is told in the style of The Night Before Christmas, so it has a fun rhythm to it. But fair warning: If potty humor bothers you, best to skip it.
- Rudy’s Windy Christmas – Speaking of potty humor: If your kids get a kick out of that, this Christmas picture book is right up their alley. Our kids gave into fits of giggles over all the new phrases they learned that mean “pass gas,” like a “I’ve done a booty burp” and “my bottom did a trump.” While we didn’t love this one enough to purchase a copy for our home library, we will be checking it out from the library every year during the holiday season!
- Santa Claus, the World’s Number One Toy Expert – We’re huge fans of Marla Frazee’s artwork (especially Everywhere Babies and All the World), so it was fun to find a Christmas book for kids written and illustrated by Frazee. In this adorable little book, you get a peek behind the curtain at Santa and all the hard work that goes into picking out the right toy for every child. Be sure to take time on each page to look for all the playful details in the illustrations!
- Laugh-Out-Loud Christmas Jokes for Kids – This book is from our favorite series of joke books, Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids. In this edition, you get lots of festive jokes that kids will love, like “What’s a sheep’s favorite Christmas song?” Fleece Navidad. Or “What do gingerbread men use when they break their legs?” Candy canes. Quick tip: This book is the perfect size for a stocking stuffer.
Winter Holiday Books About Traditions Around the WorldThese winter holiday books are a lovely way to introduce your children to how people around the world celebrate their own winter traditions.
- Winter Candle – This book is out of print, so you’ll need to get it at your local library. But I’ve been scouring my local used bookstores for a copy because it’s so good. This is the powerful story of how a single candle touches the lives of five different families who celebrate five different winter holiday traditions. Not only does the book introduce children to different traditions from different cultures, but the example of neighbors helping neighbors is utterly beautiful. If I ever find a used copy of this, I’m never letting it go!
- Oskar and the Eight Blessings – In this story, a boy named Oskar sets off in a ship for New York City to escape Nazi Germany. For younger children, this is a poignant introduction to the traditions of Hanukkah and the holiday spirit. But older children will feel more deeply the severity of Oskar’s situation of his parents sending him off to another country to escape the horrors of his own home. For kids who want to learn more, be sure to share the historical background at the end of the book.
- Walk This World at Christmas Time – This is a gorgeous book! Each page spread shows how people around the world celebrate different aspects of Christmas. You can lift little flaps to discover more details, and my kids loved hunting down all the flaps and then finding what was hidden under each flap. We put this one next to our Advent calendar and explore a little every night.
- My First Kwanzaa – This is an introduction to Kwanzaa that’s best suited for younger kids. You may want to explain each of the principles covered and what they mean because the abstract concepts can be hard for kids to understand, but this was a great starting point for the conversation.
- A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World – If your kids love treats, this one is a fun addition to your collection of children’s Christmas books. The book steps through the Christmas cookie traditions of 32 different cultures, and you even get the recipes for some of them. (In fact, my only regret with this book is that we didn’t get the recipes for all of the cookies mentioned, but that’s easy enough to Google these days!)
- The Story of Hanukkah – This book is a great introduction for kids and families who don’t yet have any background knowledge of the history of the holiday and the traditions surrounding how it’s celebrated today. Just beware that the story does get a little violent in some spots (but then again, so does the Bible). If those parts are too much for your child, you can just tone down the language or skip those details as you read aloud.
- Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story – Kids with siblings will relate to this story of seven brothers in an African village who fight and bicker all the time. We loved how the book laid out the history and seven principles of Kwanzaa and delivered a powerfully original story.
Bonus! 4 Awesome Christmas Chapter BooksMy oldest reads chapter books constantly, so she set herself a personal goal to read as many Christmas chapter books as she could this year. Every time she found one she loved, she added it to a list for me. Then I read her favorites and whittled it down to the ones we both loved. If you’re looking for a Christmas chapter book that will make a great read-aloud with older kids, this is the list for you!
- A Boy Called Christmas – This is a fun adventure story complete with magic (elves and trolls and pixies!), and the humor reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl. We decided this will be a Christmas chapter book we re-read together every year as a family to get ourselves in the Christmas spirit. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out the companion books, The Girl Who Saved Christmas and Father Christmas and Me. Such a fun series!
- The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street – In this story, a family of seven finds out their landlord will be kicking them out of their beloved home right after Christmas. The five Vanderbeeker children are heartbroken, so they come up with a plan to save their home. This was a heartwarming holiday read!
- Paper Chains – This is a story of friendship that takes place during the holiday season. While it’s not as overtly Christmas-y as the other Christmas chapter books in this list, this is just an absolutely lovely, sweet read so we had to include it. If you enjoy it, you’ll want to check out its companion Like Magic next.
- Winterfrost – The Larsen family is preparing for their Christmas Eve celebration when the grandmother breaks her hip. They need to take her to the hospital, so they leave the 12-year-old and her baby sister home – and that’s when the adventure starts. We loved learning about the Scandinavian Christmas traditions in this sweet story!