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Celebrating Christmas is a highlight for all children, however, not everyone enjoys the holiday season in the same way. The range of different types of families across the world is matched by different ways to celebrate. For example, the month of December encompasses a range of other seasonal events outside of the Christian tradition like Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Lights. Unfortunately, festivities are not always represented as vibrantly diverse as they are in real life. Particularly famous figures like Santa tend to be portrayed as predominantly white. Here is a list of 12 fabulous festive books that encompass the diversity of family celebrations over the holiday season.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (Picture Puffin Books)
The Snowy Day is a classic of children’s literature and an unmissable Christmas tale. Published in 1963, it broke existing boundaries in publishing as the first picture book with an African American protagonist to win a major children’s award. The book follows a little boy called Peter through his first encounters with snow.
A World of Cookies for Santa: Following Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman and illustrated by Susan Gal (Clarion Books)
This is an impressively wide-ranging Christmas tale detailing different treats from cultures around the world. 32 countries’ Christmas-cookie traditions are listed, and nine recipes are provided to get children actively involved with celebrations. The opportunity to create food from the book allows for new family traditions to be developed in real-time.
‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Greenfield Thong and Illustrated by Sara Palacios (Penguin)
For Latin American cultures, Christmas Eve (Nochebuena in Spanish) is the pinnacle of festivities. This book details a family hosting a Nochebuena celebration, following Latino traditions like making tamales, singing songs and drinking hot chocolate. It beautifully blends English and Spanish words, reflecting Christmas diversity through language.
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
A thoughtful story about resilience through winter, a tough time for many families. Glaser’s short story details the lives of a biracial family in Harlem, New York. Their landlord refuses to renew the lease, so the children devise a plan to change his mind. This story is very moving and will be of enjoyment and interest to children of all ages and parents alike.
Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama by Selina Alko (Penguin)
This is a great depiction of interfaith families, highlighting the beauty of mixing different traditions and rituals during the holidays. In this case, a blend of Christian and Jewish observances. It cleverly features mixed media artwork that mirrors the hybrid nature of the celebrations described.
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helena Recoveritz and illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska (Farrar Straus Giroux)
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten is an original story of how at times, children can sometimes teach their parents. Yoon learns about Christmas at school in America and is excited to tell her Korean parents about the different traditions she encounters. It deals with some of the unique struggles immigrant families face when managing new and old traditions, and how families can participate in multiple cultures.
Santa’s Husband by Daniel Kibblesmith and illustrated by A.P. Quach (Harper Collins)
Santa Claus is one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday season. Kibblesmith cleverly reinvigorates this traditional story with a refreshing new LGBT+ friendly take. Santa has a husband, and together they work to deliver presents for all the children around the world from their cosy North Pole Home.
The Miracle of the First Poinsetta: A Mexican Christmas Story by Joan Oppenheim and illustrated by Fabian Negrin (Barefoot Books)
The Miracle of the First Poinsetta tells the traditional Mexican legend about the meaning of the poinsettia, a beautiful red plant used to decorate homes during Christmas. A small dictionary of phrases are included at the end of the book with songs to encourage interactive learning.
Silent Night by Lara Hawthorne (Frances Lincoln Publishers Ltd)
This beautifully illustrated book brings together two Christmas traditions: the carol ‘Silent Night’ and the story of the nativity. Mary and Joseph are represented as Middle Eastern rather than Caucasian, reimagining the classic story of Jesus’ birth more accurately to the true ethnic composition of Bethlehem.
The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow and illustrated by James E. Ransome (HarperCollins)
This is a unique retelling of The Nutcracker set in the Harlem Renaissance. The protagonist Marie finds the confidence to dance and sing through her vibrant community. It expertly brings the rhythm and flare of jazz to each page and features accurate representations of 1920s fashion and accessories for a truly immersive reading experience.
Walk this World at Christmastime by Debbie Powell (Big Picture Press)
A complete collection of global cultures through Christmas that doubles as an advent calendar, so each day of December you can ‘travel’ to a new culture and pick up another tradition.
Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem by Maya Angelou illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher (Random House)
Another classic, Amazing Peace was first read by activist Maya Angelou at the 2005 White House tree-lighting ceremony and later converted into a children’s book. It is a powerful set of affirmations about the enduring dream of peace and how unity amongst diverse groups supports this mission: “We, Baptist and Buddhist, Methodist and Muslim, say come. Peace.”
Annabelle is a student from London, currently in her final year studying History at the University of Oxford. Outside of her studies, she enjoys editing and writing for different student zines and news publications. She is also a keen campaigner for gender inclusivity, having acted as her College’s Gender Equalities Representative.