1. The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola
Set in a village in Santa Fe, New Mexico, The Night of Las Posadas tells of the Spanish custom which celebrates Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem on Christmas Eve.
2. The Legend of the Poinsettia retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola
“When I first heard the Mexican legend of the poinsettia, about a little girl who offers weeds to the Christ Child as her gift for Christmas, I was touched by it as only Christmas can touch me. I knew that one day I wanted to create the story in pictures for children.” ~Tomie dePaola, The Legend of the Poinsettia
3. Brigid’s Cloak: An Ancient Irish Story by Bryce Milligan, illustrated by Helen Cann
Brigid's Cloak is a beautifully illustrated story about the fifth-century Irish saint, who travels back in time to visit the stable in Bethlehem. As a word of caution, there is a Druid in this story, which may be off-putting to some families. (ETA: I just read the story of Balaam in the Old Testament and it is very similar. God speaks through a fortune-teller to bless God’s people.)
4. Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
Allen Say’s books have a magical quality to them. So spare and peaceful. Tree of Cranes is a story of a Japanese boy who celebrates his first Christmas. His mother tells him of her childhood in California where Christmas was celebrated with a decorated tree and gifts. Together they decorate a tree with silver cranes and candles. (No mention of the birth of Christ, however.) My boys and I enjoy folding paper cranes to decorate our own Christmas tree after reading this story!
5. The Miracle of St. Nicholas by Gloria Whelan
I love to add books to our Christmas collection each year. Because we traditionally celebrate St. Nicholas Day with close friends, one of the books I’ve chosen this year is The Miracle of St. Nicholas. This story tells of a Russian village's return to church after years of persecution.
6. Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov
Baboushka and the Three Kings tells the Russian folktale about the old woman who declines to journey with the Three Kings as they search for baby Jesus. She is unable to find him on her own and resumes her search each Christmas.
7. The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola
As delightful as I find Tomie dePaola’s books, we are adding The Legend of Old Befana to our collection this year, as well. Italy has a similar folk tale of an old woman who turns down a journey with the Three Kings.
8. Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis
Given my Swedish heritage, I love books and traditions from Sweden. Annika's Secret Wish is a story about the Swedish tradition of finding an almond hidden in the rice pudding Christmas Eve. This is a beautiful story of sacrificial love.
9. The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
The Tomten is a gnome-like creature who comes out at night in Sweden when human beings are asleep. In this story, he goes about to the farm animals and talks to them ‘in tomten language, a silent little language a horse can understand.”
You may also enjoy The Tomten and the Fox.Christmas in Noisy Village is another one of our Christmas favorites by Astrid Lindgren (author of Pippi Longstocking).
10. Christmas Around the World Coloring Book by Joan O’Brien
For an inexpensive taste of traditions all over the world in one book, Christmas Around the World Coloring Book is the perfect thing. Each page has a detailed picture to color accompanied by a short paragraph explaining the traditions. Australia, Austria, Belgium, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Iraq, Italy, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Sweden, and the United States are all represented!