Baby & Toddler
Books That Celebrate Diverse Holidays and Traditions
by Charnaie Gordon
For many families, holidays and traditions play an important role in shaping their beliefs, experiences, and who they are. As the holiday season approaches, it’s important to remember there are a diverse set of holidays available to explore. I want my children to have an understanding of why our family holidays and traditions are important to us, but I also want them to appreciate the customs and traditions of other cultures so they can have a well-rounded and realistic view of the world.
I wholeheartedly believe children who have an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of other cultures are more likely to grow up to be adults who are more compassionate, kind, and empathetic. Below I’ve rounded up a few books that help introduce children to different holiday cultures and traditions. Spy any of your favorites?
Always Together at ChristmasAvailable from:
For many families that celebrate Christmas, things might look a little different this year, as everyone does their best to take precautions in light of COVID-19. This timely picture book will help young readers see that even when families and communities are physically apart, we can still find creative ways to come together.Available from:
Too Many Tamales
It's Christmas Eve and Maria is excited to help her mother make tamales for their family's annual Christmas celebration. All dressed up in her mother's apron and feeling like an adult, Maria is tempted to try on her mother's diamond ring. After getting caught up in the joy of the holiday and playing with her cousins, Maria realizes her mother's ring is missing! That's when she and her cousins come up with a plan to eat all of the tamales, in hopes of finding the ring. A fun story with a valuable lesson that incorporates family, teamwork, and Mexican American culture.
Celebrations Around the World
Celebrations Around the World exposes children to different cultures around the globe. Twenty-five events are featured, including both religious and non-religious holidays and festivals. I think the range of holidays and celebrations included and the little snippets of information provided are just right for kids to understand. A delightful introduction to diverse celebrations around the world.
Together for Kwanzaa
Together for Kwanzaa is a story about a little girl named Kayla who wants to see her older brother Khari come home so they can celebrate Kwanzaa together as a family. Khari is stuck at college when a blizzard hits and his car breaks down. Will he make it home in time for Kwanzaa? The story also explains the principles of Kwanzaa and provides more information about the holiday.
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The Legend of the Poinsettia
Ever wonder how poinsettias came to be so integrally tied to Christmas? Tomie dePaola brings to life the Mexican legend of the poinsettia, also known as the flor de la Nochebuenao, or flower of the Holy Night. It all began with one thoughtful young girl, before blooming into a colorful tradition.
A Child's Christmas in Wales
Reminiscent of A Christmas Story, this book is a funny, nostalgic tale of Christmas Eve afternoon through Christmas night in Wales, and is full of unique imagery and poetic prose. An ALA Notable book illustrated by a Caldecott Medalist, A Child's Christmas in Wales will evoke a sense of familiarity for some young readers while introducing them to different aspects of Christmas traditions.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
The word otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is used by members of the Cherokee Nation to express gratitude. This is an amazing story that describes a journey through the seasons with a modern-day Cherokee family. Readers learn about Cherokee culture, celebrations, and language. Cherokee history and traditions are also seamlessly woven into the story in a very kid-friendly way. I love that this is an #OwnVoices picture book that helps expose children to Native American perspectives and culture. The back matter includes pronunciations for Cherokee words, a glossary, a Cherokee syllabary, and a personal author's note. There is also a classroom guide available here.
All-of-a-Kind Family Hanukkah
Travel back to 1912 New York City, and watch as preparations for Hanukkah are made by a family on the Lower East Side. When Gertie, the youngest, is not allowed to help prepare latkes, she throws a tantrum. Banished to the girls' bedroom, she can still hear the sounds (and almost taste the smells) of the family getting ready to celebrate. But then Papa comes home, and she is allowed out of her room to perform the best job of all: lighting the first candle on the menorah.
Epiphany — sometimes called Three Kings’ Day — celebrates the journey of the Magi to visit a newborn baby Jesus in Bethlehem. Intricate illustrations in the style of medieval paintings follow the starlight procession, with the kings carrying their precious gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. A coda explains more about the Christian holiday.
The Shortest Day
Stunning illustrations that span centuries accompany Susan Cooper’s classic poem, “The Shortest Day,” which commemorates the winter solstice. From early humans to a modern family celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, people the world over gather for this yearly ritual: “They carol, feast, give thanks, / And dearly love their friends, / And hope for peace. / And now so do we, here, now / This year and every year.”
Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama
This very special book is all about bringing holiday traditions together. Daddy brought Christmas to the household and Mama brought Hanukkah, which means lucky Sadie has twice as much to celebrate in December. The holidays are never in competition but seamlessly blended: Santa gets milk and latkes, while stockings and the menorah share a special place on the mantel.
Baby’s First Diwali
Part of the wonderful Baby’s First Holidays series, this vibrant board book captures the joys and wonders of Diwali, from the diya lamps to the sweetest of treats, with accessible language and images of real-life families celebrating the festival of lights.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in 2019 and updated in 2020.