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Multicultural Christmas Picture Books for Kids

I know Christmas is around the corner when my son changes the radio station to Christmas music while we are driving in the car together. When I hear the tune to Jingle Bells, I think to myself, “It must be about that time to start thinking about Christmas!”. I pull out my collection of Christmas picture books and begin mapping out when I will share each of them during the month of December. This year, I’d love to share my favorites with you so you can add them to your list. Your students can enjoy these kids Christmas books, too!

When thinking about creating a list of children’s Christmas stories that you want to share with your class, be sure to consider the representation and diversity of the characters and settings. You’ll want to use culturally diverse children’s books that not only make all of your students feel valued and represented, but also make it possible to learn about and understand how different people celebrate Christmas around the world. Using the list of multicultural children’s books below with a Christmas around the world unit could be a great way to successfully do this.

Read below to get my list of multicultural Christmas picture books! Your elementary students will love these Christmas stories for children because they really are some of the best Christmas picture books out there for kids! The following book titles are included on the list:

  • Christmas in Noisy Village
  • Tree of Cranes
  • What’s Cooking, Jamela?
  • Yoon and the Christmas Mitten
  • Too Many Tamales
  • La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story
  • The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol
Kids reading Multicultural Christmas Books

7 Multicultural Christmas Picture Books

Below are some of my favorite multicultural Christmas pictures books to share with elementary students!

Christmas in Noisy Village by Astrid Lindgren

Christmas in Noisy Village describes the lives of a group of close-knit children living in a small Swedish village during the Christmas season. From their traditions in the days before Christmas to the delicious treats typically enjoyed during this season, the holiday spirit comes to life with this story’s vivid illustrations and descriptions!

Tree of Cranes by Alan Say

The book Tree of Cranes is about a boy learning about his mother’s Christmas tradition. When a young boy catches a chill after spending time in the cold, he returns home. He expects a scolding from his mother. He finds her folding paper cranes and making a wish. The boy’s mother draws him a hot bath, gives him hot rice gruel and sends him to bed early. The boy, noticing his mother is acting differently than normal, assumes that he had upset her and regrets it. When he looks out the window to the garden after hearing a noise, the boy sees his mother digging.

Later, she brings a potted pine tree to his room. She tells her son that she is not really upset with him, and that, having grown up in California, she wants to tell him about the tradition of putting out a Christmas tree. When the boy wakes up the next morning, he finds what he’d wished for the night before waiting for him!

What’s Cooking, Jamela? by Niki Daly

In What’s Cooking, Jamela?, Jamela lives with her family in South Africa, and they are busy making plans for Christmas. Mama lets Jamela choose the young chicken that they will fatten up in time for the holiday dinner. Jamela names the chicken Christmas and is tasked with caring for it herself. Soon, the day before Christmas arrives. Jamela is sent on an errand to check on the dish that a friend, Thelma, was planning to prepare. However, she brings Christmas with her because she had gotten close with the chicken and doesn’t want her to become part of their dinner.

On her way to Thelma’s house, Jamela accidentally lets go of Christmas, and the chicken disappears. When she returns home, Mama is disappointed that Jamela has lost the chicken. Even though Jamela is secretly happy that Christmas is safe from her family’s pot, they go out to look for her. When they find Christmas, Jamela must convince her mother that you don’t eat friends.

Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits

The book, Yoon and the Christmas Mitten, is the fourth multicultural Christmas picture book on the list. When Yoon’s teacher lends her a book about Santa Claus, she is excited to go home and show her parents. To her disappointment, Yoon’s mother tells her that they “are not a Christmas family” because the holiday is not a part of their culture. Yoon cannot understand why they don’t like the idea of Santa Claus or Christmas. She continues doing activities in school in preparation for Christmas. As she brings word of more Christmas traditions home, Yoon is continuously told that they “are not a Christmas family”. Yoon begs her parents to let her hang her red mitten on the night before Christmas, and they reluctantly agree. When she wakes up the next morning, Yoon finds something special waiting for her. This is one of the many great multicultural Christmas picture books!

Too Many Tamales by Gary Soto

In the story Too Many Tamales, it was Christmas time, and Maria was helping her mother make tamales. Her mother had even let her wear lipstick and perfume, so she was feeling very grown up; she only wished that she was allowed to wear her mother’s ring. When her mother left the kitchen to answer the phone, she left the ring on the kitchen counter. Maria decided to put it on. She left the ring on when her mother returned, and they continued making the tamales.

Soon, the tamales were cooking and Maria’s cousins had arrived, but, suddenly she noticed that the ring had disappeared. As she ran to the kitchen and looked at the steaming pile of tamales on a platter, Maria knew that one of the tamales must contain the ring. In order to find the tamales, Maria and her cousins began to eat them. Soon, there were none left, but the ring was not in any of them. Tears welling up, Maria headed to the living room to confess to her mother about the ring. However, she realizes that her mother had the ring on her finger the whole time. The whole family worked together to make a new batch of tamales! This will quickly become one of your students’ favorite Christmas picture books!

La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacra

The book, La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story, is about a girl partaking in new Christmas traditions. A young girl named Nina is spending her first Christmas with her father and her grandmother, who live in Florida. Nina wishes that she could be up North with her mother’s side of the family because she misses the snow. This year, her father thought it would be good to see how the Cuban side of her family celebrates Christmas.

The next morning, Nina helps the other women in her family prepare marinade, then delivers it to her uncle’s house. There, her male cousins are busy preparing the spit where the pig will be roasted. For the next three days, she travels back and forth from her grandmother’s house to her uncle’s house, delivering fresh marinade while the pig is roasting.

Finally, La Noche Buena, Christmas Eve, arrives and it is time for the feast, music and dancing. Nina has such a great time that, next year, she wants to bring her cousins from up the North, too!

The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol by Tomie DaPaola

In this book, DePaola retells the classical English Christmas carol, The Friendly Beasts, which describes the Nativity story. Including the complete carol, with musical notation, at the end of the book, this story uses vivid illustrations to bring the tale to life.

Book cover of multicultural Christmas picture book, The Friendly Beasts
The Friendly Beasts: An Old English Christmas Carol

These multicultural Christmas pictures books are great read alouds for the month of December. Students will love listening to these captivating stories and participating in class discussions about the books! If you are a big fan of teaching using read alouds, then head on over to my Starts With a Story collection! There are tons of book companions based on winter read alouds and much much more!

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