December is a great time of year for celebrating and learning about holidays around the world for kids. Elementary students can learn about how different countries celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Diwali, Las Posadas, Three Kings Day, St. Lucia Day, Epiphany, and Chinese New Year using these lists of holidays around the world books.
You may also find this comprehensive holidays around the world unit to be helpful! It is packed with holidays around the world activities, holiday lesson plans, festive holiday crafts from around the world, and more! In addition to exploring all of the holidays celebrated this time of year, it does a deep dive into Christmas around the world for kids. It’s a great way to celebrate a festive time of year without focusing on one or two popular holidays and doing it in a meaningful and academic way. Learn more about these quality picture books for teaching holidays around the world for kids below!
Holidays Around the World Books
Using holidays around the world books as read alouds will equip you to share multicultural celebrations and diverse traditions with your students. This book list includes quality picture books that show diversity, cultures, and winter holidays in the global world.
The list below goes beyond “Christmas Around the World” to include:
- Chinese New Year
- Las Posadas
Use the time-saving book list below to decide which titles are a good match for your students. Clicking on any of the covers will take you to full descriptions and summaries as well as reader reviews via an Amazon affiliate link. While you may want to build up your personal collection of books by purchasing them you could also use the list to request copies from your local library or even search online for video of the books being read aloud at no cost.
Below are some of my favorite holidays around the world books to share with elementary students!
Chinese New Year
Ruby’s Wish by Shirin Yim Bridges
The story Ruby’s Wish takes place in China a long time ago. Ruby lived in a big house with her wealthy grandfather. He had many wives and therefore had many grandchildren. Unlike other girls in China, Ruby was able to take classes because her grandfather had hired a teacher to come to the house. Ruby was always an impressive student, and even continued with her classes when the other girls stopped going. It was not easy for her to keep up with the boys because she had household duties after school, while the boys were able to play.
One day, Ruby wrote a poem about how the boys in the house are treated differently. Ruby’s grandfather was concerned and asked her to explain the poem to him. He learned that Ruby wanted to go to university just like the boys. Later, on Chinese New Year, Ruby’s grandfather handed her a large envelope. Inside was an invitation from a university inviting Ruby to be their first female student. Ruby’s dream of attending university finally came true!
Other Chinese New Year Books
Christmas Wombat by Jackie French
The book, Christmas Wombat, is a short and funny Australian story told from the perspective of a wombat. In the book, the wombat is describing his day, almost like a journal. He comes across some carrots and excitedly eats them. However there are some strange creatures, Santa’s reindeer, eating his carrots! The wombat continues to follow Santa and the reindeer, eating all of the reindeer’s carrots. He has never seen so many carrots in his life! By the time he returns home is he too full to eat the delicious grass he sees. Students will love this funny story about a wombat that thinks the reindeer’s carrots are for him!
Other Australian Christmas Stories
Cobweb Christmas by Shirley Climo
Cobweb Christmas is a German folktale that explains why people decorate their Christmas tree with Tinsel. It tells the story of an old woman fondly called Tante, by those in her village. Each year, Tante gets her home ready for Christmas by cleaning and going out to get a Christmas tree. Tante would make her own decorations for the tree, covering it in treats for the animals. Once everything was ready, she would share her tree with the children and animals. When Tante finally fell asleep, Christkindel was off delivering presents. He saw hundreds of spiders outside Tante’s house, hoping to view the tree.
Christkindel let them in and discovered they’d woven webs all over the tree. Not wanting to upset Tante, he turned the webs into tinsel. Tante was awoke to the marvelous tree and continued to decorate her tree that way year after year.
Other German Christmas Books
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren
The Tomten by Astrid Lindgren tells the Scandinavian story of a gnome. In this book, the Tomten lives on an old farm and visits the people and animals during the night. While humans have never seen him, they know he is there because of his little footprints in the snow. It takes place during the long, frigid winter while everyone is wishing for spring. As the Tomten visits the cows, sheep, dogs, and children, he offers words of hope and reminds them to be grateful. He speaks his own, silent language that the animals can understand. Students will enjoy listening to this sweet folktale from another country.
Other Swedish Books
Madeline’s Christmas by Ludwig Bemelmans
Madeline’s Christmas is a story about a little girl named Madeline who embarks on an adventure. It’s the night before Christmas and everyone is sick in bed except for Madeline. She is taking care of the other eleven little girls and Miss Clavel. It’s a lot of hard work! When Madeline finds help from a magical merchant, the girls go on a Christmas journey.
Other French Christmas Books
Latke, The Lucky Dog by Ellen Fischer
Latke, The Lucky Dog is a story about how Zoe and Zach got to pick out a dog as a Hanukkah present. They chose a medium, playful dog and named him Latke. When Latke makes it home, he is very excited about his new house. He thinks he is so lucky to live with Zoe and Zach. When Latke sees treats on the table, he thinks he can eat them because it is his home. Latke is curious about candles so he chews them. He keeps chewing and slobbering on things and his family starts to get angry and upset. Latke worries that his family will bring him back to the shelter.
Eventually, Latke learned that he should only be eating his food, and his family gave him a chew toy as a Hanukkah gift. Students will love this story about a puppy adjusting to his new home. This book is a great way to teach students about Hanukkah traditions.
Other Hanukkah Books
Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis
The Seven Spools of Thread is a folktale that takes place in Ghana. There are seven brothers that live in a village and they argue day and night. When their father passes away, the village Chief tells them that their father has left them his inheritance. However, in order to receive it they must do two things: turn seven spools of thread into gold, and do so without arguing. The brothers return home and come up with a plan together.
Eventually, they decide to try creating something with the thread to sell in exchange for gold. The brothers create a colorful fabric, which is different than the single colored fabric in their village. A treasurer for the King gives the brothers gold for the fabric and they earn the inheritance. The brothers show compassion to their village by teaching others to turn thread into gold. The seven threads in this story symbolize the seven principles of Kwanzaa.
Other Kwanzaa Books
Las Posadas Books
Holidays around the world is an extremely popular unit in elementary schools and homeschool classrooms throughout the month of December. If you are teaching a holidays around the world unit, check out these 5 simple steps for teaching holidays around the world. It also showcases a comprehensive, jam-packed resource I created that includes all of the holidays around the world activities that I’ve used over the years.
Also, if you haven’t yet read it, I welcome you to download my free December eBook for elementary teachers to help make your holiday season stress-free and enjoyable. It includes tips to save you time and make the busy holiday season much more enjoyable in the classroom. You’ll also find helpful printables, booklists, and links to resources to use throughout the month of December. Feel free to share it with your teaching colleagues as well.
These holidays around the world books serve as great read alouds for the month of December. Your elementary students will love learning about this different holidays and making connections between the stories and their own experiences!