Christmas is coming (or it’s here!), the world’s a mess, and I guess that makes it time for a moderately representative holiday booklist! But, because I am a librarian, I’m going to start this list out with, first, a content note, and second, a disclaimer.
The content note is fairly simple: this is in no way exhaustive; it is, however, a list that includes representative books about Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, as well as a few other winter celebrations. At the very end, I include a very few selected works for adults and teens. But this isn’t exhaustive, and is largely youth-based. (#RepresentationMatters.)
The disclaimer is even more simple: I’m not a festive person. I don’t much like holidays, honestly. But I’ve been deeply frustrated with the snow-whiteness of so many of the holiday books I’ve seen; with the eternal emphasis on Christmas—and on Christian holy days—above all others. In theory—as enshrined in the constitution, actually—the United States has separation of Church and State. In practice it’s a bit more meh, which is a bit more noticeable when your childhood neighbors were Buddhist and Hindu and Jewish and Catholic.
So, you know, do the festive thing—and, if possible, try to do the festive thing with representative works.
Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney
Waiting for the holiday is awfully hard for little Llama Llama in this entry in Dewdney’s popular Llama Llama series.
A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World by M.E. Furman & Susan Gal
Learn about the cookies kids around the world might leave out for Santa Claus in this picture book—a tour of the world in cookies!
Pete the Cat Saves Christmas by Eric Litwin & James Dean
Pete the Cat saves Christmas in this 2012 entry in the popular Pete the Cat series!
Just can’t get enough of the Twelve Days of Christmas in your life? Can’t read Pete the Cat enough times? (or just sick of the ones you’ve read?) Pete the Cat meets The Twelve Days of Christmas in this take on the classic carol!
Miracle on 133rd Street by Sonia Manzano & Marjorie Priceman
The Christmas roast wouldn’t fit in the oven—but, once José and his papá find one big enough to fit, the smell brings the whole neighborhood together.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore & Jessie Wilcox Smith
The classic version of Moore’s Christmas poem, originally published with these illustrations in 1912.
A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas by Pat Mora & Magaly Morales
Get even more Twelve Days of Christmas in your life, with this bilingual rendition of a piñata in a pine tree!
Fa-la-la! / ¡Tra-la-la! by Leslie Patricelli
Get ready for Christmas with this bilingual board book.
Between Us And Abuela: A Family Story from the Border by Mitali Perkins & Sara Palacios
María, Juan, and their mother travel to the border for Christmas so they can see Abuela, across the fence in Mexico.
I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison &Frank Morrison
Travel the sights and sounds and smells of Christmas in the city along with our narrator and her mother, as they traverse a snowy city before Christmas.
It’s Christmas, David! by David Shannon
Irrepressible David’s as excited as ever (or maybe even more excited than usual!) as Christmas rolls around in this entry in the David series!
‘Twas Nochebuena by Roseanne Thong & Sara Palacios
Visit a Nochebuena celebration in this reworking of Clement Moore’s famous ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas!
Content note here, again: Hanukkah is not really the equivalent of Christmas; the most sacred days in the Jewish calendar are Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah. Hanukkah commemorates the Maccabees’ successful revolt, and the miraculous olive oil.
The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler & Jill Weber
The story of Hanukkah and the Maccabees.
All-Of-A-Kind Family Hanukkah by Emily Jenkins & Paul O. Zelinsky
Gertie feels pretty left out when she can’t help her mother and four big sisters make latkes—but when her father comes home, he’s got a special job for her.
Hanukkah Bear by Eric A. Kimmel & Mike Wohnoutka
What happens when Bubba Brayna’s latkes are so good, they wake a bear from hibernation?
Little Red Ruthie: A Hanukkah Story by Gloria Koster & Sue Eastland
When Ruthie runs into a wolf on her way to spend Hanukkah with Bubbe, she’s got to use all the tools—and latkes!—at her disposal.
Chanukah Lights Everywhere by Michael J. Rosen & Melissa Iwai
A boy and his sister look for the Chanukah lights all around them.
Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Richard Simon, Tanya Simon, & Mark Siegel
Oskar arrives in New York City with only a name, fleeing Kristallnacht and danger in Germany. As he travels the city on the seventh day of Hanukkah—which is also Christmas Eve—he encounters eight New Yorkers, whose kindness helps him find a way forward in his new city.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen & Mark Teague
Celebrate Chanukah along with Dinosaur in this entry in the How Do Dinosaurs…? series!
Kevin’s Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard & Constanza Basaluzzo
Follow Kevin through his family’s Kwanzaa celebrations. This book has very short chapters and rather large words.
My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard & Constanza Basaluzzo
Follow a brother and sister through their preparations for Kwanzaa, and then through their celebration!
My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz
Celebrate the seven days of Kwanzaa with this book for the very littles!
Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis & Daniel Minter
Learn about the values of Kwanzaa in this story of seven bickering brothers who must learn to get along.
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington & Shane W. Evans
Li’l Rabbit thinks he’s too little to do anything useful when his granna’s sick at Kwanzaa—but he just needs a little help.
a few not picture books
content note: these are mostly for adults. Just so you’re aware.
- Kwanzaa: From Holiday to Every Day by Maitefa Angaza
- “What is Kwanzaa?” by Erin Blakemore for JSTOR Daily
- The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen (Royal Spyness #6)
- “Herr Drosselmeyer, It Grieves Me to Disinvite You and Your Nutcracker from Future Holiday Parties” by Audrey Burges for McSweeney’s
- Christmas: A Biography by Judith Flanders
- Burning Bright: Four Chanukah Love Stories by Megan Hart, S.K. Hendin, Stacey Agdern, & Jennifer Gracen (romance)
- Mangoes and Mistletoe by Adriana Herrera (romance)
- Eight Kisses: Eight All-New Tales of Holiday Romance edited by Mindy Klasky & Lori Ann Bailey (romance anthology)
- It’s a Whole Spiel: Love, Latkes, and Other Jewish Stories edited by Katherine Locke & Laura Silverman (young adult anthology, not Hanukkah-focused)
- A Kiss for Midwinter by Courtney Milan (romance)
- My True Love Gave To Me: Twelve Holiday Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins (young adult anthology)
- “The Gendering of Holiday Labor” by Hope Reese for JSTOR Daily
- “How Hanukkah Became ‘Jewish Christmas’” by Jordan G. Teicher for JSTOR Daily
- Lighting the Flames by Sarah Wendell (contemporary Hanukkah romance)
- Winter Holidays articles from the editors at JSTOR Daily