Holidays Around the World Books
People often live in communities with populations that are demographically similar. In other words, your neighbors probably practice a familiar faith and celebrate holidays in near identical ways. Make the effort to introduce your children to people outside of these circles. Learning about different traditions and religions requires us to push beyond our comfort zones to broaden our children’s understanding of the world. Below I will post some books that are great conversation starters and unit study resources, they pair well with our Holidays Around the World lesson pack you can find here!
If you are looking for books to help teach about other holiday celebrations around the world here is a great list! (You can click the images to grab a copy for your own library!)
Celebrate Chinese New Year while making chiao-tzu dumplings, then pop over to Saudi Arabia and taste delicious date-nut cookies called ma amoul while celebrating Eid ul-Fitr. Make an elaborate Venetian mask to wear at a masquerade ball in Venice during carnevale, then pound out a festive rhythm on the Igbo drum you vemade and celebrate the Iriji festival in Nigeria. Eat, drink, and make merry with the many diverse and exciting crafts, recipes, and activities in this book. No matter what language you say it in,celebrations are fun!
It's also the celebration of an ancient miracle, and retelling and remembering the story of that miracle is an essential part of the holiday, for young and old. The story of the courageous Maccabees is retold in simple yet dramatic text, accompanied by vibrant paintings of the battle, the Temple of Jerusalem, and the oil which miraculously burned for eight long nights.
Holiday time at Sadie's house means golden gelt sparkling under the Christmas tree, candy canes hanging on eight menorah branches, voices uniting to sing carols about Macabees and the manger, and latkes on the mantel awaiting Santa's arrival.
Selina Alko's joyous celebration of blended families will make the perfect holiday gift for the many Americans who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
Lucy Latke's family is just like yours or mine. Except that they're potato pancakes. And also, they are completely clueless. After lighting the menorah and gobbling the gelt, Grandpa Latke tells everyone the Hanukkah story, complete with mighty Mega Bees who use a giant dreidel to fight against the evil alien potatoes from Planet Chhh. It's up to the Latke family dog to set the record straight. (To start with, they were Maccabees, not Mega Bees...) But he'll have to get the rest of the Latkes to listen to him first!
This zesty parody of one of America's favorite picture books offers a very different bedtime routine: one that is full of family exuberance and love. Instead of whispers of “hush,” this bedtime includes dancing and kvelling, and of course, noshing—because this little bunny is a Jewish bunny, and this joyous book celebrates the Jewish values of cherishing your loved ones, expressing gratitude, and being generous.
The Story of Kwanzaa
Light the candles on the kinara! Fly the bendera, and tell stories from Africa! The festival of Kwanzaa was originated by Dr. Maulana Karenga to honor the customs and history of African Americans.
The seven principles of Kwanzaa, called the Nguzo Saba, serve to remind African Americans of the struggles of the past, and also focus on present-day achievements and goals for the future.
The holiday fun continues with activities at the end of the book, including making your own cow-tail switch and baking benne cakes.
The story of Li'l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others. Donna L. Washington's story, with art from Shane W. Evans (Chocolate Me!), provides a fun introduction to the holiday.
In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars. Using the Nguzo Saba, or "seven principles" of Kwanzaa, the author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community. Magnificent and inspiring linoleum block prints by Daniel Minter bring joy to this Kwanzaa celebration.
Celebrate Kwanzaa continues the spectacular Holidays Around the World series by focusing on this African-American holiday, which falls during the festive, gift-giving season and is celebrated by families, communities, and schools throughout America. With succinct, lively text and beautiful photographs, the book celebrates African-American culture and helps us to understand and appreciate this special holiday.
The Chinese New Year Books:
Ruby has a special card to give to her grandmother for Chinese New Year. But who will help her get to grandmother’s house to deliver it? Will it be clever Rat, strong Ox, or cautious Rabbit? Ruby meets each of the twelve zodiac animals on her journey. This picture book includes back matter with a focus on the animals of the Chinese zodiac.
In this beautifully illustrated book, children aged 2 to 6 will follow Hong as he and his family prepare for and celebrate the Chinese New Year Festival. They will also enjoy reading the story behind the most important celebration in Chinese culture. More interesting facts and questions for discussion are included at the back of the book.
In a brightly colored board book, perfect for the youngest child, Newbery Honoree Grace Lin tells the tale of a Chinese American family as they prepare for the Lunar New Year. Each family member lends a hand as they sweep out the dust of the old year, hang decorations, and make dumplings. Then it's time to celebrate. There will be fireworks and lion dancers, shining lanterns, and a great, long dragon parade at the end!
More Holiday Books:
The Night of Las Posadas (Mexico)
Tomie dePaola's glorious paintings are as luminous as the farolitos that light up on the Plaza in Santa Fe for the procession of Las Posadas, the tradition in which Mary and Joseph go from door to door seeking shelter at the inn on Christmas Eve.This year Sister Angie, who is always in charge of the celebration, has to stay home with the flu, and Lupe and Roberto, who are to play Mary and Joseph, get caught in a snowstorm. But a man and a woman no one knows arrive in time to take their place in the procession and then mysteriously disappear at the end before they can be thanked.That night we witness a Christian miracle, for when Sister Angie goes to the cathedral and kneels before the statue of Mary and Joseph, wet footprints from the snow lead up to the statue.
The Legend of the Poinsettia (Mexico)
This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl's unselfish gift to the Christ Child. Beloved Newbery honor-winning author and Caldecott honor-winning illustrator Tomie dePaola has embraced the legend using his own special feeling for Christmas. His glorious paintings capture not only the brilliant colors of Mexico and its art, but also the excitement of the children preparing for Christmas and the hope of Lucida, who comes to see what makes a gift truly beautiful.
The Legend of Old Befana (Italy)
Every morning and every afternoon, Old Befana sweeps with her broom. “Cranky old lady,” the children say. “She is always sweeping!” Sweep, sweep, sweep.
But when a brilliant star glows in the eastern sky one night, and Old Befana encounters the glorious procession of three kings on their way to Bethlehem, her world will never be the same.
Christmas in Noisy Village (Sweeden)
The noisy children of three neighboring families are celebrating the season by baking cookies, cutting and decorating trees, eating fruitcake and tarts, and opening Christmas gifts. With illustrations by Ilon Wikland, the master storyteller Astrid Lindgren takes us through Christmas in the Noisy Village!
Tree of Cranes (Japan)
As a young Japanese boy recovers from a bad chill, his mother busily folds origami paper into delicate silver cranes in preparation for the boy's very first Christmas.
Binny"s Diwali (India)
Binny is excited to talk to her class about her favorite holiday. But she struggles to find the words.
Taking a deep breath, she tells her classmates about the fireworks that burst like stars in the night sky, leaving streaks of gold and red and green. She shares with them delicious pedas and jalebis. And she shows them clay lamps, called diyas, which look so pretty all the children ooh and aah.
This Diwali, Jay and Tina make 101 clay diyas and cannot wait to light them all. Diwali is only a day away and the diyas are taking their own sweet time to dry up. Will they be ready in time? Will Jay and Tina celebrate the festival with the bright lights of their diyas?Learn the legend behind the most celebrated festival in India and understand the rituals and traditions associated with Diwali. The book brings you a magical story and the mythological significance of Diwali celebration. Come, let’s celebrate Diwali with Jay and Tina as they prepare and look forward to celebrating this special day with their family.
It's a WonderPho Christmas (Vietnam)
A children's picture book for Christmas inspired by Vietnamese tradition and culture by Y. T. Tran, author of Golden Blooms: Celebrating Tet-Vietnamese Lunar New Year, and Star Lanterns: Celebrating Tet Trung Thu-Vietnamese Mid-Autumn Festival. It tells the story of Lillian Nguyen as she goes from wanting to get a list of things for Christmas to wanting to give instead. A simple recipe for making Christmas Pho is included and it encourages kids to explore ingredients and cook with their parents as part of celebrating this wonderful holiday.
Old Mother Frost is a Yuletide story of an ancient Norse goddess who sleeps all year long, waking only to make sure children are happy, healthy and festive during the longest and coldest nights of the year (the 12 days of Yuletide).
This nostalgic recollection of Christmas past by celebrated Welsh poet Dylan Thomas evokes the beauty and tradition of the season at every turn: the warmth of a family gathering; the loveliness of a mistletoe-decked home; the predictability of cats by the fire; the mischief and fun of children left to their own devices; and the sheer delight of gifts--be they Useful or Useless.
The Shortest Day (Winter Solstice/Yule)
As the sun set on the shortest day of the year, early people would gather to prepare for the long night ahead. They built fires and lit candles. They played music, bringing their own light to the darkness, while wondering if the sun would ever rise again. Written for a theatrical production that has become a ritual in itself, Susan Cooper’s poem "The Shortest Day" captures the magic behind the returning of the light, the yearning for traditions that connect us with generations that have gone before — and the hope for peace that we carry into the future. Richly illustrated by Carson Ellis with a universality that spans the centuries, this beautiful book evokes the joy and community found in the ongoing mystery of life when we celebrate light, thankfulness, and festivity at a time of rebirth. Welcome Yule!
Have a book you'd like to see on this list? Feel free to contact me and I can add!