Before my 4-year old daughter was born, my husband and I often wondered how we would celebrate the holidays with her once she was old enough to truly enjoy it. We both love Christmas, and grew up in households honoring the typical Western traditions centered around Santa Claus and the birth of Jesus Christ. However, we realized that she would likely grow up in a world that was ever more diverse and inclusive. How would we expose her to the richness and wonder of the holidays enjoyed so differently all over the world, while still appreciating the joyfulness of the festivities we share every year here in America?
Thankfully, our daughter was able to experience a variety of cultural celebrations by visiting the homes of our diverse family (and still wanting presents from Santa). Most of our family members celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas, but for the few who observe other time-honored traditions like Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Chinese New Year, partaking in the festivities with their direction has been amazing. It has given us a chance to enhance our own celebrations while we learn about those of other cultures.
There are so many different types of holiday traditions, with even more variations of them being created each year. What better way to introduce your little one to the excitement, love, and magic of the season by showing them how different customs bring year-long holiday cheer all over the world? You may be surprised but there are many fascinating children’s books that will help them realize that the reason for the season is not the same everywhere. These brilliant renditions will take us to the far corners of the world, but we’ll start off with a few books that hit a little bit closer to home:
A World of Cookies for Santa: Follow Santa’s Tasty Trip Around the World
Words by M.E. Furman, Art by Susan GalClarion Books (2017)
In America, we love gingerbread cookies and fudge during the holidays, but what do children leave for Santa in other parts of the world? From the Philippines to Australia, this tasty book teaches us that sweet, delicious treats can be found all over the globe–no wonder his belly gets so big and round! Bonus points for the cookie recipes.
Christmas in Lagos
Words by Sharon Abimbola Salu, Art by Maria Nikla
Published by the Author (2019)
While a good snowfall is the signature setting of a Christmas in the U.S., in parts of West Africa, the cool, dry winds of Harmattan set the holiday climate. In this adorable tale, 6-year old Ranti reminds us that Christmas fun comes in all shapes, sizes and colors, but the spirit of joy it brings can be found anywhere. Children may be very surprised to learn how similar the celebration can be even from so far away.
Duck for Turkey Day
Words by Jacqueline Jules, Art by Kathryn Mitter
Albert Whitman & Company (2017)
In Western culture, “Turkey Day” is synonymous with Thanksgiving, a holiday that produces fond memories but stirs much controversy given its storied past. For young Tuyet, her excitement for Thanksgiving is diminished by her Vietnamese American family’s duck dinner tradition. For kids, food can be a divisive topic, and being different can be uncomfortable. However, Tuyet learns that the diverse kids in her class celebrate “Turkey Day” with roast beef, lamb, and even enchiladas!
Archie Celebrates DIWALI
Words by Mitali Banerjee Ruths, Art by Parwinder Singh
Charlesbridge Publishing (2021)
Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, symbolizes the power of light, or goodness, over darkness, or evil. It’s a highly decorative, energetic celebration, and Archie (short for Archana) can’t wait to share it with her friends from school. This story can help children appreciate their own traditions, and why it’s so important to learn about other cultures and ideas.
Welcoming Elijah: A Passover Tale with a Tail
Words by Lesléa Newman, Art by Susan Gal
This award-winning Jewish picture book tells the remarkable story about two young, kindred spirits, whose journey to find each other draws parallels from the story of Passover. It’s a sweet, emotional story that is sure to formulate questions from kids about the meaning of the religious ceremony and what it means for both Jewish and non-Jewish people.
May Your Life Be Deliciosa
Words by Michael Genhart, Art by Loris Lora
Harry N. Abrams (2021)
Just as important as Christmas, Christmas Eve has its own share of memories. From opening 1 gift early, going to Christmas mass, or staying up until midnight for Santa, there is something special about the day before the big day. In this book, we discover another awesome tradition, through Rosie and her grandmother’s tamale-making feast. It’s a warm, loving tale filled with the richness of family togetherness encouraged by making delicious food.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
Words by Natasha Yim, Art by Kathryn Mitter
I’ve read several alternate renditions of “Goldie Locks and the Three Bears”, and this is one of my favorites. It’s a very creative spin on the original, which incorporates the beautiful colors, decorations, costumes, and food of Chinese New Year.
These are only a few of the numerous holiday children’s books at the library, in stores, and online. They authentically celebrate representation, featuring culturally diverse characters and traditions. Our daughter was delighted to learn that in so many places around the world, children enjoy delicious foods, ornate decorations, and sing songs with their families that may be a tad different from ours, but are cherished the same way.
It remains evermore important for our spaces and stories to be inclusive. Stories that teach us new ways to observe our more common past times, or ones that are a welcomed break from the norm, revitalize the energy of our favorite customs, shedding new light on their cherished meanings and significance.
After a 20-year career as a professional nanny, Monique DuPree has been committed to teaching toddlers to read early and often. She’s been sought out by parents and caregivers to assist them in curating their children’s libraries with inclusive stories that offer diverse characters, ideas, and experiences. Her social media followers know her as Nanny Miss Monique, and tune in weekly for her live interviews with popular children’s book authors, illustrators, and publishers. She collaborates with other influencers and educators to provide compelling live storytime events for children of all ages–all over the world!
Follow her on Instagram and Facebook @nannymissmonique