December is lush with things to celebrate. It’s one of the reasons we love it so much. Most of the holidays in December revolve around sparkly lights and warmth and love and faith, giving them an extra beauty and coziness. My family celebrates Christmas and Winter Solstice, and we have a small party just for us on New Year’s Eve. We celebrate all of these holidays with food and games and simple family time. We read books and poetry about the season and watch movies to get us in the mood.
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In our homeschool, my boys and I have done month-long unit studies on Winter Holidays Around the World. It’s always fun to learn about other cultures, and some of our studies have led to new traditions in our house. Incorporating other traditions into our own holidays has made them richer and keeps the idea of diversity fresh in my littles’ minds. In this small world we live in now, diversity and acceptance are more important than ever.
Maybe your family’s holiday season includes Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Yule. Maybe you’re looking most forward to the New Year celebration. Making books an important part of your festivities is a wonderful way to help your littles understand the holidays and get into the spirit of the season. Including books from the celebrations of other cultures can remind your littles to appreciate the amazing differences and similarities that make up our world. Since this series has already offered you a listing of Christmas books, here are some books about some of the
other holidays in December, so you can make diversity part of the festivities.
Winter Holiday Collections
There are lots of books out there that teach about several of December’s holidays in one neat package. These are awesome if you want to examine and compare them without having to read several books.
Lights of Winter
I love the title of this book because it gets right to the heart of that whole sparkly lights and warmth part of the holidays. It introduces 10 winter holidays celebrated in different parts of the world: Yule, Christmas, Saturnalia, Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Diwali, Soyal, Zagmuk, and Teng Chieh. Each is described in a short paragraph with an accompanying illustration.
A Blue’s Clues Holiday
In Classic Blue style, Blue explores 3 winter holidays–Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas. Sure to be a hit with toddlers, it includes activities to do for all 3 holidays. How cool is that?
Messy Bessey’s Holidays
Bessey bakes cookies for her friends to help them celebrate Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas. The book even includes a recipe for sugar cookies. And hold on to it, because it will make a great early reader in a couple of years.
Celebrate the Winter Holidays
This awesome book not only has background information on 5 winter holidays, it contains activities for all ages. No doubt you’ll find something fun to do with your little ones in this book.
Holidays Around the World Coloring Book
Each page of this book is a picture to color with a brief description of the holiday it depicts. Though it covers the whole year, at least 5 winter holidays are included.
Winter Solstice/Yule Books
The Winter Solstice (also called Yule) is the first day of winter. The shortest day and longest night has been celebrated by many cultures all over the world for as long as people have understood the turnings of the seasons. These five books aren’t all specifically about solstice celebrations, but every one of them celebrates winter so joyously that they will make a wonderful addition to your Yule festivities.
The Shortest Day
This one is important because it explains the science behind the solstice in a language your little will understand. Plus there’s a brilliant fact file at the end and several activities you can do with your littles to explore the shortest day of the year.
One Short Day in December
This sweet book, with its almost abstract illustrations, is about a deer family (a fawn and her two moms) celebrating Winter Solstice. If you don’t know anything about deer, it is common to see two does sticking together and caring for a single fawn or set of twins, but this book would also be superb for littles of same-sex parents.
Sleep Tight Farm
If you live on a farm or just dream of doing so, this book is amazing. It not only explains what it takes to get a farm ready for winter, it shows how each crop from the growing season is used over the winter. It’s an enchanting exploration of both winter and farming, perfect for opening discussions about the solstice.
I love the idea of a little troll who walks around the winter nights and takes care of all the animals. This book is written by the creator of Pippi Longstocking, so you know it’s wonderful from the get-go. Perfect for a cold, dark night when summer seems far away.
This lovely book depicts snowmen celebrating the solstice: singing, dancing, and feasting all in honor of the first day of winter. The gorgeous two-page spreads and sparse wording are sure to enthrall your little.
I’ve always been fascinated by this Jewish holiday and the way it focuses on the spirituality of Judaism rather than gift-giving. I love the idea of lighting the candles on the menorah and how they represent a one-day supply of oil lasting a miraculous 8 days in Jewish history. My Jewish friends have always laughed at me because I’m bummed I don’t get to celebrate it. They have actually made me talk to their kids who wish they could celebrate Christmas. You know, so they can see that sometimes Christmas-doers envy them, too.
The Night Before Hanukkah
I love this series, and the Hanukkah book does not disappoint. Though based on the classic Christmas poem, this book celebrates everything wonderful about Hanukkah, including the dreidel, latkes, and the lighting of the candles.
Happy Hanukkah, Curious George
Hanukkah and my favorite monkey? I’m in! This is a tabbed board book, so your littles can look at the pictures on the tabs and go right to whatever they want to read about.
Another simple board book to introduce your toddlers to the lighting of the menorah, eating gelt and latkes, and giving gifts for Hanukkah.
I love this story of two bunnies learning the importance of the menorah and other Hanukkah festivities. I mean, bunnies.
Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah
Though this cute book doesn’t delve too deeply into the meaning of Hanukkah, it does do the job of getting a little excited about the holiday. Sammy watches a little boy light the menorah and receive a new dreidel each night of Hanukkah, and he wants a dreidel of his own. Like I said, it’s a super-cute book that would make a fun addition to your Hanukkah library.
Here’s what I crush on about Kwanzaa: it’s not a religious holiday. Rather, it is a celebration of African traditions and culture. The Seven Principles of Kwanzaa–Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith, are principles we should all ponder. We’re studying Africa in our homeschool this year, and I can’t wait to show the boys how it all works.
My First Kwanzaa
With simple words and adorable illustrations, this picture book introduces littles to the importance of family, friends, and community as part of the Kwanzaa celebration.
K is for Kwanzaa
An alphabet book that also teaches your littles about Kwanzaa? Too cool! Including important background information, this book is a wonderful primer for the holiday.
Kevin’s family celebrates Kwanzaa in bright illustrations, lighting candles and discussing a new word (principle) each day for seven days. Sidebars explain the Seven Principles and there’s a drum-making activity in the back. You know you want your toddler to have his own drum. So he can serenade you.
The Sound of Kwanzaa
This one introduces your littles to the Swahili words from which the Seven Principles are pulled. (Don’t worry; there’s a pronunciation guide in the back.) There’s also a recipe for No-Cook Kwanzaa Brownie Bites. Made from dates. I’m not making that up.
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa
Li’l Rabbit wants to get something special for his sick grandmother during the Kwanzaa feast, Karamu. He talks to all the animals around his neighborhood and discovers that Granna Rabbit has been generous with each of them at some point in the past. By the end, Li’l Rabbit has gathered the whole community together for a huge Karamu. This one is a great supplement to more informative books–it’s just a story about Kwanzaa that teaches the principles on the sly.
New Year’s Books
New Year, fresh start, noisemakers and countdowns–what’s not to love about New Year’s celebrations? We have good food and games and movies as a family on New Year’s Eve, and sometimes I even make it to midnight!
The Night Before New Year’s
Have I mentioned I love this series? Because I do. I love this one because the littles all get worn out from all the games and snacks and might not be able to make it to midnight. And it’s my own private irony, because in our house, the littles do just fine. I’m the one who often falls asleep by 10.
Happy New Year, Spot!
Who doesn’t love Spot? I mean, Come On. He’s too little to stay up till midnight (which your little will relate to), so he finds a way to celebrate early. Might just give you some ideas about how to include your toddlers in celebrating the new year.
Squirrel’s New Year’s Resolution
Mostly I love the illustrations. But also, it’s very cool that Squirrel goes to the librarian to find out how to make the resolution. And the librarian is a bear. Bear explains that a resolution is a promise you make to yourself to be better or to help others. Those are the right kinds of resolutions.
Sylvester and the New Year
This German fairy tale is about Sylvester, a white-bearded, sleigh driving figure (who sounds awfully familiar), who brings in the new year in the form of a new child. The illustrations are stunningly magical and it’s a fun new year’s myth.
Happy New Year Around the World Coloring Book
I’m a big fan of these Around the World coloring books because they incorporate art and learning so well. This one includes observances in China, Germany, India, Australia, Mexico and many more.
Exploring other cultures through their holidays is the perfect way to introduce your littles to the idea that though we are all, in some ways, different, we are also all the same. And during this hectic month, when we are all swamped with preparations, reading books with your littles will help you slow down, remember to smile at everyone you see, and appreciate the stillness when you can get it. Happy holidays and happy reading.
About the Author:
KT Brison is a former children’s librarian and educator who gave all that
up for the most important job in her life—homeschooling her boys. Though
she loves the outdoors and rambling around her farm, she can usually be
found with her nose in a book. Any book. As long as it has words. You can
find her blogging at Lit Mama Homeschool or connect with her on Facebook,
Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram.
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