Take a trip around the world with these books while sitting in your cozy classroom! This list features children’s holidays and Christmas around the world books that are loved by both teachers and students everywhere.
Every December, my students and I go on a world tour of countries around the world. We look at the different holidays they celebrate or at their own Christmas traditions.
These Christmas around the world books help us learn about different cultures. We can find similarities and differences between our own traditions and celebrations and those of others. There are few subjects I love more than this one!
This list is organized based by country, then book. The countries are organized in alphabetical order for ease of finding what you are looking for. This is a growing list. If you have a book, country or other holiday you recommend I add, please let me know!
I always sent a note to parents before starting this unit explaining that we will be learning more about different cultures and their holidays. Many of these books tell stories that are central to a world religion. As always, I recommend reading these books yourself before reading them aloud. 😊
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Holidays Around the World
These first two books are filled with information about many different countries in the world. I use them to supplement other information we learn throughout our unit, but they could also be read straight through.
This beautiful book features many of the countries we learn about on our journey around the world during the holiday season. Each country’s page has little removable booklets, pullouts, mini pop-ups and more.
Just look at this one! 😍
My students absolutely love to look at these pages as I open them. It really is the perfect book for the magic of the season.
Beware: this book will probably leave your students begging for cookies and your taste buds tingling!
That is because on your trip “around the world” in this book, you will read about the different cookies and treats that countries leave out for Santa! It pairs perfectly with the countries as we learn about them.
Students can find connections to what we have learned about a country and the treat they leave out for Santa. I especially love it when they can make a guess based on what they have learned!
Of all the Christmas around the world books, this is the one I recommend the most! You can find a lot of great information online, but this one is really unique, engaging and is especially fun for students.
It would be hard to find a more lovable character in a story than this sweet Christmas wombat. He really loves to sleep, but he is also a big fan of carrots. He even competes with Santa’s reindeer for them!
Most (or all) of my students aren’t familiar with wombats until we read this story. The Australian flair in this fiction story gives students a glimpse into a culture with a lot of similarities and differences to our own in the United States.
One of our favorite things to discuss about Christmas in Australia is that, for them, it happens in the summer! They can spend it warm on the beach, toes in the sand. In fact, it is a common tradition to barbecue.
This classic story is one most of us know and associate with the Christmas season. Even so, I have found that it is one that very few of my students are familiar with already.
I love that I can share the story with them through this version. It is abridged, making it much shorter than the full version. It also includes illustrations that are engaging to students.
I also recommend the Disney video version, Mickey’s Christmas Carol, if you have time (and permission) to squeeze it in! It does a great job of making the story come alive. We compare and contrast it to the text, looking for the big themes that really make the story such a classic.
This sweet story about an overgrown pine tree’s dream to be a Christmas tree is one of my favorites. The text has such a lovely, lyrical flow and the illustrations are beautiful.
Even better than that is the message of the story. The tree watches as people come and go, choosing other trees year after year. His woodland friends help his dreams come true in the end.
This heartwarming story is one that my students ask to hear again and again.
This traditional German story explains the reason we decorate with Tinsel at Christmas time. Tante, the main character, wishes to see something magical happen on Christmas.
When spiders sneak in to see her Christmas tree, they leave behind something that makes her dreams come true. Students are always surprised and interested in the way the spiders contribute to the story.
We love to talk about Germany and gingerbread during the holiday season. We love it so much that we spend a whole week reading our favorite gingerbread stories!
If it weren’t for the inception of gingerbread in Germany or the way they have carried it on as a tradition, we wouldn’t have all of these wonderful books! We also wouldn’t have tasty gingerbread. 😉
This colorful book describes the Hindu holiday, Diwali. The exact date of Diwali varies but we love to learn about it and the culture surrounding it during our trip around the world.
Readers learn about the 5 day festival of Diwali through simple rhyme and really vivid illustrations. My students are always captivated by the exciting story that inspires this festival.
It was the first night of Chanukah when the shiny dreidel spins off and just won’t stop. You’ll follow it’s journey to see where it is going and if it ever stops spinning.
This book is written in the style of “The Night Before Christmas,” and is especially engaging as it introduces the traditions of Chanukah. It is light-hearted and has really inviting illustrations.
This story is about a girl named Sadie who gets to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah with her parents. The way this book approaches the blending of traditions and families is perfect for the holiday season.
After we read this story, we discuss traditions and the ways they have evolved and morphed together. For example, Germany may have started the tradition of baking gingerbread, but now it is baked all over the world during this season.
My students have always enjoyed making that cultural connection and thinking about what traditions they want to participate in in their own homes. (Gingerbread is usually one of them 😉)
This book is one of my absolute favorites because of the message it shares. Old Befana does the same thing every day. She always bakes bread and sweeps her house every morning and afternoon. The kids in her neighborhood call her cranky.
One day she sees a bright star and three kings come along. They say they are going to Bethlehem to see a baby. They invite Old Befana but she stays to sweep.
The story of Old Befana is tradition in Italy, accompanied by her riding her broom and bringing baked goods to the children in the country. Perhaps it is her way of making amends for not leaving with the three kings.
The Night of Las Posadsa is about the Mexican tradition of actors playing Mary and Joseph on the night of Jesus’ birth. They go from door to door, searching for shelter. The people join the procession until they get to the end for a special party.
Unfortunately, this year, a snow storm keeps the actors from doing their jobs. A man and woman that no one knows come instead, and disappear before they can be thanked.
It is fun to see students wonder who the mysterious man and woman are. It is also a perfect introduction to the Night of Las Posadas. This story is longer so I tend to do a little bit of paraphrasing. The illustrations do a wonderful job of keeping my students engaged.
In Mexico, the poinsettia is called “the flower of the Holy Night.” This retelling of the Mexican Legend explains how the flower came to be a traditional Christmas flower because of one girl’s selfless gift.
This book is a perfect introduction to how an object can become part of a cultural tradition and how that tradition lives on, even beyond the story. I had never known why poinsettias were part of the Christmas tradition until I read this book!
We couldn’t have a round up of the best Christmas books without this one! This classic story is one I save for the end of our unit because once we read it, my students really can’t wait for Christmas day!
It perfectly captures the excitement of the holiday and shares the tradition of Santa Claus. There are many, many versions of this book out there. I linked this one because I love the illustrations.
The Polar Express is always the last book we read before I send my students home for winter break. Yes, it is about a trip the the North Pole to meet Santa, but it is also about believing in the magic of Christmas.
I always have students who can’t believe that all the main character asks for is a single bell. It’s very normal for kids to be all about the gifts on Christmas, but this book gives us the chance to look past presents and onto emotions.
I know I go on and on about illustrations, but this book really has some of the best. I project this one onto our SmartBoard screens so we can talk about how the different pages make us feel, even when there is not a lot of text.
Kwanzaa was started in the United States in the 1960s, but it was based off of traditional African harvest celebrations and customs. Kwanzaa actually means “first fruits” in Swahili! It is really important to me that I include as many cultures into our holidays around the world and this one is no different!
This book teaches the seven principles of Kwanzaa through an engaging story about seven brothers who cannot stop fighting until they have no choice but to work together.
This book also guides readers through the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It is so lyrical and inviting. You will read about each principle, it’s name and meaning, with examples of what it looks like.
This book really feels like a celebration. We can follow along with the people as they light the candles and learn about a holiday that may not be familiar to all of us. It is one that my students ask to read again and again.
This story shares the story about the three wise men that many of us know from the Christmas story. It starts with them in different places in the world, seeing the bright star, and setting out separately. The kings meet and find out they were following the same star. It goes on to tell the rest of their story to see the baby that was born.
The Feast of the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, is celebrated in Spain (and many other countries) each year in January. This holiday specifically celebrates the wise kings on their journey to meet baby Jesus.
Humphrey’s First Christmas shares the story of a camel that traveled with the three kings to meet Jesus. Humphrey does not have a blanket and the journey is long and cold. He works hard to get a new blanket, but when he sees baby Jesus, he gives the hard-earned blanket away.
My students love the story of Humphrey and his selfless act. It’s so interesting to think of a story we have already heard (many times by this point) in a new perspective. It also serves as a reminder that everyone has something to offer someone else, even if they think they don’t.
Oh, the sweet Tomten. We love him! He is a mythical little being, like a gnome, who visits everyone at the farm to remind them that spring will come soon. He travels around to all of the creatures and speaks silently to each in a language only they can understand, making sure everyone is safe and warm.
We love the Tomten because he gives each animal and person the hope they need to make it through the winter. I ask each of my students to think of what we would want him to say to each of us.
We also love the Tomten because he is just about the cutest little thing we could imagine. I think we all agree that our lives would be better with a Tomten in it! This story is adapted from a traditional Swedish poem.
I recommend reading a few (or all!) of these to your students this holiday season. Looking at other cultures and learning about the ways they celebrate and the traditions they have is such a great experience for our students.
Christmas Around the World Passages
If you’re looking for a way to supplement your Christmas Around the World unit, I highly recommend these reading passages. They will tie in perfectly with all of the books recommended above. Plus, they provide an engaging opportunity to practice reading fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary in a month that sometimes doesn’t get THAT much instructional time, if you know what I mean. 😉
Do you have any favorite Christmas around the world books you read to your class? I am always expanding my collection and would love your recommendations! Let me know below! 👇