A Literary Christmas Tradition

Having a baby provides the perfect opportunity to invoke our own family traditions. (For example, the obligatory screaming Santa photo.) This year we will introduce a new tradition centered around literacy – a literary Christmas tradition.

I recently learned that Iceland has a literary Christmas tradition called the Christmas Book Flood. In Iceland everyone must receive at least one book for Christmas to take to bed on Christmas Eve with some chocolates. Books and chocolate?! Sold!

I already intended to give Penelope a book this Christmas, as I feel so strongly about the power of books and believe there really is no better gift. I recently bought 123 Dream by Kim Krans because Penelope is showing an interest in numbers (she already knows numbers 1 through 10!). And I instructed my in-laws to purchase a handful of other titles I was lusting after for Penelope’s library. But upon learning about Iceland’s literary Christmas tradition, I took advantage of a recent trip to Portland’s Powell Books (officially my mecca) to buy Penelope another book, this time Christmas-themed — Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

If you’re interested in beginning your own literary Christmas tradition, below are five of my favorite children’s Christmas books. And of course, there’s my 100 Favorite Children’s Books if you want titles that aren’t Christmas-themed.

Five Children’s Books to Foster a Literary Christmas Tradition

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas

I chose this book because Penelope looks remarkably similar to Cindy Lou Hoo and because this is a classic Christmas story.



Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

As a teacher, I loved reading this story with my students. The artwork is beautiful and there’s something magical about imagining what snowmen do when the rest of us are asleep.


The Spirit of Christmas by Nancy Tillman

I adore Nancy Tillman’s children’s books. The artwork is spectacular and her stories always come back to this one crucial point — the undeniable love we feel for our children. The last line of this book reads, “For as long as the world still spins and still hums, wherever you are, and no matter what comes, the best part of Christmas will always be… you beneath my Christmas tree.”

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Peek-Through Picture Book by Britta Teckentrup

I’ve looked at several Twelve Days of Christmas-themed books and this one is my favorite. The artwork is delightful and the peek-through pictures are engaging for toddlers.


The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

A classic from my own childhood. I have vivid memories of my mom reading me this story. Be forewarned, there are a lot of words in this book. (Meaning it will take you longer to read aloud.)