Our Favorite Christmas Books

Every winter, having tucked our holiday books away in the hidden reaches of a closet, I look forward to pulling down those visions of sugarplums and the grumpy Grinch for sparking our Christmas-time imaginations. And every winter, the box grows a bit heavier as we discover new favorites to add to our collection.

This is a list of our family’s favorites. I’d love to hear yours.

The NutcrackerLast year we went in search of a Nutcracker telling that would prepare the kids for watching the ballet. So many versions either ended with an emphasis on a romance between Clara and the prince, or seemed overly focused on ballet as a thing for girls. Alison Jay’s version is just right for boys and girls alike, capturing all the best moments of the Balanchine ballet. We also recently added The Story Orchestra edition—which is beautiful and plays clips of Tchaikovsky’s music.

The Night Before ChristmasThe poem that seems to inform so many’ visions of Christmas. I never tire of reading it during the season. Someone gifted us Holly Hobbie’s beautiful watercolor edition a few years ago, and I still think it’s the most beautiful I’ve seen.

The Snowy Day—While not expressly a holiday story, few books better capture the wonder of winter.

Christmas in a Noisy Village—Sweet, simple story about children making Christmas preparations, by Astrid Lindgren, who created Pippi Longstocking. Her story, The Tomten, is also wonderful this time of year.

Christmas Eve at the Mellops’—”It is the day before Christmas and the four Mellops brothers all have the same idea: to surprise their family with a Christmas tree.” A book about focusing on the needs of others. Peace on earth and goodwill toward all!

The Twelve Days of Christmas—A beautiful illustration of one of our family’s favorite holiday songs. Children will find “golden rings, turtledoves, and all the rest, secretly tucked into each stunning painting.”

The Wild Christmas Reindeer—Patience and kindness help a little girl teach reindeer to fly. Also relevant by Brett: The Three Snow Bears and The Mitten.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas—Dr. Seuss’ holiday story is a favorite around here—to read and to watch. “‘Maybe Christmas,” he thought, ‘doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!'”

The Polar Express—Necessary reading if you’re planning on riding one of the many Polar Express trains setting off around the country. But it’s a classic for reasons other than that. A sweet tale about believing in the magic of Christmas.

Christmas Around the World For some perspective about how others might be celebrating or some inspiration for new traditions. “From Ethiopian fringed umbrellas and star-shaped Filipino parol lanterns to candlelit Swedish St. Lucia crowns, Christmas Around the World brings together Christmas traditions from twelve different lands.” I’d like to also check out this new one, Walk this World at Christmastime. Has anyone read it?

The Snowman—A wordless journey to let imaginations run wild. We also love watching the movie, which is delightful in its quiet wintry scenes.

The Christmas Wish—”A brave little girl named Anja wanted to be one of Santa’s elves. So she leaves a note for her family and helps her elderly neighbor prepare for the holiday, then she straps on her skis, and heads out into the snowy landscape. From a red bird to a polar bear to a reindeer, a menagerie of winter animals help Anja make her way to Santa.” Beautiful illustrations that bring to life a Nordic vision of Christmas.

The Jolly Christmas Postman I loved The Jolly Postman growing up. It’s such fun to take out all the Christmas letters.

The Gift Of Nothing—This was passed our way a few years ago and is a sweet reminder that the gift of friendship is the best of all.

What are your favorite books to read for the holidays? I’ve been told I need to check out The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree. Any others? 

P.S. Favorite holiday songs and a simple gift-giving philosophy.

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