A couple of years ago I published a review of 17 Christmas books for kids. This year I’m back to share 20 more books about Christmas, but this time all of the books have a multicultural twist in that they features characters who are either from outside the US or who are members of minority groups within the US.
This collection of children’s books is a great place to start if you are looking for Christmas stories featuring diverse cultures, ethnicities, and time periods. All in all, these 20 books provide a great opportunity to teach children about the different ways that Christmas is celebrated all over the world!
Note: For more Christmas activities your kids will love, see my Christmas Activities for Kids page.
Yoon and the Christmas Mitten by Helen Recorvits
Yoon is a young Korean-American girl whose family immigrated to the United States. In school, her teacher and fellow students tell her all about the various Christmas traditions in the U.S. But much to Yoon’s disappointment, her parents reject her interest in Christmas. They tell her, “We are not a Christmas family. We are a Korean family.” But Yoon does not give up.
On Christmas Eve, she pins a mitten to the bottom corner of her blanket. Her parents notice and ask her about it. She explains that it is her Christmas mitten, and it is where Santa will leave a surprise.” Her father again insists that this is not the Korean way. But Yoon gives him something to ponder when she replies, “You have also told me that America is our home now. Are we not both Korean and American?”
The next morning, Yoon is delighted to find a new red dress and a surprise in her mitten. She brings the surprise to school, telling her friends it is a piece of the North Pole. But her friends recognize it as a candy cane, and encourage her to enjoy it’s peppermint taste.
The All-I’ll-Ever-Want Christmas Doll by Patricia C. McKissack
This story takes place in an all-black town in the rural South during the Great Depression. It is almost Christmas time, and Nella announces to her two sisters that the only thing she will ever want for Christmas is a Baby Betty doll. Her sisters chide her, saying “Why you wishin’ for somethin’ you ain’ never gon’ get?”
But on Christmas morning, the girls’ receive one Baby Betty doll to share amongst the three of them. Nella’s two sisters ooh and ahh over Baby Betty, but Nella takes Baby Betty from her sisters and declares Baby Betty to be all hers. “You are all I want,” Nella tells Baby Betty. “I don’t need anything else.” When Nella doesn’t include her sisters in caring for Baby Betty, the other girls run off to find something else to play.
Nella soon grows lonely with no one other than Baby Betty to play with. She realizes that it would be much more fun to share Baby Betty with her sisters so they can all play together.
Mama Bear by Chyng Feng Sun
One day, Mei-Mei and her mother walk by a toy store when Mei-Mei spots a very large bear in the window. Mei-Mei begs her mother to buy it, saying that it will keep the two of them warm in bed at night. Her mother replies she will not get a raise until after Chinese New Year in February, and they need the money to fix their heater before the long winter.
But Mei-Mei has an idea. When they get home, she pulls out a glass vase to collect all of the coins in her mother’s purse. She hopes to collect enough coins to buy the bear before Christmas. Eventually realizing that the coins will not be sufficient, Mei-Mei decides to hold a bake sale at the Chinese restaurant where her mother works. She earns nine dollars selling almond cookies on Christmas Eve. But when she counts up all the money she has saved in the vase, it still isn’t enough to buy the bear.
“How long do we have to wait for the softest, warmest bear in the whole world?” Mei-Mei asks her mother. Her mother then helps her see that Mei-Mei already has all she needs to keep her warm.
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
This story takes place in Mexico, and tells how the poinsettia plant – called la Flor de Nochebuena, or Flower of the Holy Night – came to be associated with Christmas.
Lucida is a young girl who lives in a rural Mexican village with her papa, mama, and two younger siblings. Monday through Saturday, the family’s life revolves around caring for their fields and animals. But on Sunday, the family goes to church.
As Christmas approaches, the Padre asks Lucida’s mama to weave a beautiful new blanket for the Baby Jesus in the Christmas procession. Lucida’s mama is honored to be asked, and she enlists Lucida to help her. They pick out the finest wool yarn and begin their weaving. Sadly, Lucida’s mama falls ill before the blanket is finished, and she ends up in the hospital. Lucida tries to finish the blanket on her own, but is not able to do so.
On Christmas Eve, the whole village comes to the church to give presents to the Baby Jesus. But Lucida is too embarrassed to enter because she has nothing to give him. An elderly woman convinces Lucida that anything she can offer will be appreciated by the Baby Jesus. So Lucida gathers some weeds growing next to the church and walks inside. When she lays her gift down next to Baby Jesus, the weeds transform, growing into beautiful red stars!
Feliz Navidad: Two Stories Celebrating Christmas by José Feliciano
In this book, Caldecott Medal winner David Diaz has provided rich, colorful illustrations for the text from José Feliciano’s famous song “Feliz Navidad.” The text of this book is simple – consisting of only the few words in Spanish and English that make up the song. The illustrations, meanwhile, detail a parranda, a Puerto Rican Christmas tradition that involves a night of caroling from house to house followed by a huge cookout.
Pablo’s Christmas by Hugo C. Martín
Pablo lives with his mother, father, and two younger sisters on a small farm in Mexico. His father works as a wood carver and the whole family attends to the farm. One day, Pablo’s mother announces that she is expecting another child. Fearing that the money he earns from carving wood will not be enough to support a growing family, Pablo’s father decides to seek work in the United States. Pablo’s father tells him that Pablo must be the man of the house now. But Pablo’s father vows to return before Christmas.
Life becomes difficult after Pablo’s father leaves, but Pablo does his best to keep the family safe. As Christmas approaches, Pablo’s father still has not returned and there is no money for presents. But Pablo is determined to make Christmas special for his family, and he surprises them with a Christmas tree. The family sets out to decorate it with a string of popcorn. But at that moment, Pablo’s father returns, calling “Feliz Navidad” (Merry Christmas)!
The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola
This book was a real favorite of both my kids, and we read it over and over last December. Las Posadas is a Spanish custom in which actors portray Mary and Joseph seeking shelter in Bethlehem prior to the birth of Jesus. Las Posadas is practiced today in Spain, Mexico, and parts of the American Southwest. This story takes place in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and uses the Spanish names for Mary and Joseph: Maria and José.
In this story, Sister Angie has been preparing for Las Posadas for weeks, and she is so proud that her niece, Lupe, and her nephew-in-law, Roberto, will be playing Maria and José. Roberto is acting nervous ahead of Las Posadas, so Sister Angie takes him to see a beautiful carving of Maria and José at the church for inspiration.
On the night of Las Posadas, Sister Angie comes down with the flu and cannot attend. Then Lupe and Roberto’s car gets stuck in the snow and they are not able to make it to the town plaza in time for the start of Las Posadas. Father Vasquez and the others wait for Lupe and Roberto to arrive so Las Posadas can begin, but Lupe and Roberto are nowhere to be found.
Fortunately, at the last minute, a man and his pregnant wife arrive on a burro. These strangers tell Father Vasquez that Lupe and Roberto are stuck, but they are friends of Sister Angie and will play the parts of Maria and José. The mysterious strangers do a wonderful job. Finally, just at the part in Las Posadas when Maria and José are given shelter in the stable, Lupe and Roberto arrive and the strangers disappear.
Back at the church, Sister Angie wakes up and goes to visit the carving of Maria and José. Astute readers will notice that the mysterious strangers who saved Las Posadas bear a striking resemblance to the Maria and José in the carving. And Sister Angie notes that the cloaks of Maria and José in the carving are covered in fresh snow.
The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola
This book tells the story of the Italian tradition of Old Befana, a woman who leaves presents for all the children of Italy every January 6 for the Feast of the Three Kings.
Old Befana lived in a small Italian village. She spent most of her days sweeping and sweeping and sweeping. One day, a procession of camels, horses, elephants, and people come through. They ask Old Befana if she can point them to Bethlehem, for they are looking for the Child who is a King. She brushes them off, telling them she has no knowledge of Bethlehem or royal matters. A boy who was part of the procession invites her to join them, but she goes back to her sweeping while the procession continues on.
Several hours later, however, she changes her mind and decides to head toward Bethlehem in search of the Child King. Sadly, she never arrives. But now, each year on the Feast of the Three Kings, she leaves candies and cookies and gifts for all the children of Italy, for she cannot be sure which one is the future Child King.
Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani
The story begins with the words from the classic song “Jingle Bells.” But then it continues on with new lyrics to the same rhythm, inviting young readers to go on a trip around the world to see how Christmas is celebrated in several different countries.
Readers will follow the reindeer and a sleigh full of children to visit Mexico, Sweden, the Philippines, Poland, Italy, Kenya, and the United States. Along the way, they will learn tidbits about international holiday customs and traditions, such as the breaking of piñatas in Mexico or the present-bearing little gnomes in Sweden. This beautifully illustrated book is a delightful introduction to Christmas around the world that the whole family can read or sing together.
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
This story is set in the town of Calabria, Italy. Every year, Strega Nona, or Grandma Witch, prepares a Christmas Eve feast and invites the whole town to join her. This year, she asks Big Anthony, her assistant, to run many errands for her to help prepare for the big feast. Each time Strega Nona asks for his help, he asks her to use her magic instead. But each time she explains that she does not use magic at Christmas. So day after day, Strega Nona asks Big Anthony to run more errands, and Big Anthony gets tired.
On Christmas Eve, Strega Nona asks Big Anthony to pick up several items for that evening’s feast. But when Big Anthony returns several hours later, he has forgotten to get any of the things Strega Nona asked of him! Strega Nona decides there can be no Christmas Eve feast this year, and she decides to go to church instead. When she returns home, she finds the townspeople gathered in her home to celebrate with her. Big Anthony had planned a surprise Christmas feast for Strega Nona!
An Angel Just Like Me by Mary Hoffman
As Tyler and his family are decorating the Christmas tree, he begins to wonder why angels are always girls, why they always have gold hair, and why they are never black like him. Wanting an angel that looks like him, he tells his family he is going to find a black angel for their tree. He searches through many stores and even asks Santa for help, but he cannot find a black angel for his tree.
Eventually, Tyler gives up and decides to put a star on his Christmas tree, because “stars are the same for everyone.” Nonetheless, Santa had other plans for Tyler, delivering a hand-carved boy angel with black skin. . . just like Tyler.
Grace at Christmas by Mary Hoffman
Grace is a spirited and imaginative young girl who lives with her Ma and Nana, and she loves to act and sing and dance. A few days before Christmas, Grace’s Ma announces that they will have extra people staying with them for Christmas this year – the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of her Nana’s friend.
Grace isn’t very excited about having to give up her room to a strange girl, and is even less thrilled when the girl, Savannah, appears sullen and shows no interest in Grace’s toys. Grace’s Nana urges her to have compassion for the little girl.
Later when Grace notices Savannah crying, the two girls end up bonding over tales about missing family. Things get even better for Grace when Savannah’s aunt, a real life ballerina, joins them on Christmas Eve and performs an impromptu ballet dance for everyone. At the end of the story, Grace has learned the value of opening one’s heart to others for Christmas.
Tree of Cranes by Allen Say
A young Japanese boy comes home feeling sick after playing in the cold water against his mother’s wishes. His mother feeds him and puts him to bed to get some rest. In the meantime, the boy observes her and notices some strange behavior. First, she makes paper cranes. Then, she digs up a small tree from the garden. The mother promises to tell her son why she has been acting so strange if he promises to stay in bed.
She explains that she was born in California, and that today is a special day where she comes from – it is Christmas. A special day when people decorate trees with twinkling lights and give presents to each other. So the son helps his mother place paper cranes on their little tree. And together the mom and son light candles to decorate the tree. The next morning, the son wakes up to find a samurai kite by the tree – it was just the gift he had wanted!
Coyote Christmas: A Lakota Story by S. D. Nelson
Coyote Christmas is a modern day Native American tale set on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota. In many Native American legends, Coyote has a reputation as a trickster and a sneaky thief.
In this story, it is Christmas Eve and Coyote is hungry. He decides to dress up as Santa to get himself invited into the home of a family that is making a wonderful meal. He transforms himself into Santa Claus and knocks on the door. Young Isabel answers and believes Coyote to be Santa. She invites him in, and her grandparents agree he can stay for dinner. Isabel and her brother Davy, who is in a wheelchair, are delighted to enjoy a meal with Santa. And Coyote is more than willing to con this family for a tasty meal.
After the meal, Isabel asks Coyote to stay to open presents. But Coyote’s Santa sack is filled with straw, not gifts. So he tries to run.
Raven sees what Coyote is trying to do, and decides to play a trick on Coyote. Raven fills Coyote’s sack with gifts for the kids, and when those gifts accidentally come tumbling out, Coyote is shocked! But then Coyote is even more shocked when he realizes what is inside the boxes, especially for little Davy.
La Noche Buena: A Christmas Story by Antonio Sacre
Nina’s father wants her to experience a Cuban Noche Buena, or Christmas Eve, which he says is the best night of the year. So he sends her to experience Christmas with her Cuban grandmother in Miami.
While there, Nina helps the women of her family peel garlic and chop onion. She also helps deliver marinade from her grandmother’s kitchen to her uncle’s home, where the men are roasting a pig for Christmas Eve dinner. After three days of hard work preparing food, La Noche Buena arrives. Nina and her extended family enjoy a wonderful feast. They attend the Rooster’s Mass at midnight, giving hugs to everyone else in the congregation. Then they return home to play music and dance the night away.
Nina decides that her father was right – La Noche Buena is the best night of the year!
The Christmas Gift: El regalo de Navidad by Francisco Jiménez
The Christmas Gift / El Regalo de Navidad shares the true story of a Christmas from author Francisco Jimenez’s childhood.
Panchito’s family are farm workers who move frequently to follow work in the field. Panchito knows his parents have very little money, but the Christmas gift he wants more than anything is a ball of his own.
On Christmas Eve, when Panchito’s Mamá thinks everyone was asleep, she quietly gets up to wrap gifts. Panchito watches her from under the covers. Although he cannot see what she is wrapping, he notices silent tears running down her cheeks.
On Christmas morning, Panchito and his siblings wake up with excitement. They pick up their gifts and open them. Instead of the ball he had wanted, Panchito receives a bag of candy. His siblings receive the same. The kids are disappointed, but feel truly sad when they see their mother with eyes full of tears.
Eventually Panchito opens his bag of candy and hands one to his mother and then to his father. He hugs them both and says, “Thank you.”
When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffith
When Eduardo moves from his family’s village to a new town, he no longer felt at home. While Eduardo speaks Spanish and plays fútbol (soccer), the kids at his new school speak English and play (American) football. Eduardo tells his parents he wants to go back to his old home, and his Mami responds that their new house will soon feel like home. “When?” asks Eduardo. And each time he asks this question, his family answers with riddles. “When that mountain turns the color of the sun.” “When trees become like standing skeletons.” “When your words float like clouds from your mouth.”
Although Eduardo does not understand these riddles at first, over time he sees them come true. With the arrival of fall, the green mountains turn yellow and orange like the color of the sun. The leaves also fall from the trees, leaving them looking like standing skeletons. And Eduardo slowly becomes more comfortable in English, allowing his words to float like clouds from his mouth.
Soon it is Christmas time. Eduardo takes out El Nacimiento, the Nativity scene he had carved with his grandfather. He places the manger in the center of El Nacimiento, and lays El Niño, the Christ child, in the manger. And finally, Eduardo feels at home.
Mim’s Christmas Jam by Andrea Davis Pinkney
This story takes place in 1925 during the period when laborers were busy digging tunnels for what would eventually become the New York City subway system.
It is nearly Christmas, and Pap is away from his family working to dig subway tunnels. His wife and two children, Saraleen and Royce, are back in Pennsylvania missing their father. Christmas won’t be the same this year. Mim tells the kids she will make her famous bully-hum jam to send to Pap for Christmas.
Meanwhile, Pap is working under two foremen that he and the other workers have nicknamed “Mean” and “Evil.” Every day Mean and Evil yell at the men, and as Christmas approaches they tell the men there will be no work break on Christmas day. Pap and the other men are upset.
Pap is working on Christmas Eve when the jar of belly-hum jam arrives from Mim and the kids. He is showing it to his co-workers when Mean and Evil show up. The workers get scared that they will get in trouble because of the jam. But Pap offers a taste of the jam to the foremen. When the foremen taste Mim’s belly-hum jam, they smile for the first time. Then they tell the men to stop working and enjoy a Christmas break.
A few hours later, Mim and the kids hear someone whistling outside. Before they know it, Pap and his co-workers have arrived at the house for Christmas to enjoy some of Mim’s belly-hum jam.
Three Wise Women by Mary Hoffman
This book provides a feminist and multicultural twist to the Christmas story featuring the three wise men.
In this story, there are three wise women – a woman from the west, a grandmother from the southeast, and a mother with a baby from the south. One evening they all notice a bright star and feel compelled to follow it. The women meet on the starlit path and watch the star grow bigger and brighter as they journey on.
Eventually, their journey leads them into a stable where they meet a man, a woman, and a newborn child.
The woman from the west pulls out a loaf of bread and gives it to the new baby, who touches the loaf as if to bless it.
The grandmother from the southeast carried nothing with her to give to the child, so she tells him a story full of starlight and hope.
The mother from the south only brought her baby with her, so she holds her baby out to the newborn, and her baby gives the newborn a kiss.
The three women then return to their homes, but the baby in the stable never forgot the three women or their presents. When he grew up, he taught others that fresh loaves of bread are better when shared. He told stories to all who would listen. And he taught the world that the greatest gift of all is love.
The Spider’s Gift: A Ukrainian Christmas Story retold by Eric A. Kimmel
This story comes from Ukraine, where people revere the spider for its diligence and modesty.
In this story, it is nearly Christmas and Katrusya’s family has no money to spare for a Christmas celebration. But Katrusya and her brothers don’t want to cancel Christmas, insisting they will make their presents and find a tree from the forest to cut down so there will be no expense.
The next day, Katrusya and her grandfather set out to find a tree they can cut and bring home. Eventually, Katrusya finds the perfect tree, and they bring it home to decorate. Her family spends the next few days making gifts, preparing the nativity, and practicing Christmas songs.
But one night, Katrusya’s mother begins screaming. There are hundreds of baby spiders in their Christmas tree! Katrusya’s mother wants to throw the tree out, but Katrusya notices the spiders making tiny webs among the needles, and convinces her mother to wait until after Christmas to do so.
Christmas arrives and the family celebrates with a small feast. They attend services at their church, and then return home. Upon entering their home, they notice shiny spider webs covering all of the branches on their Christmas tree. Katrusya goes to touch one, and notices it is hard. The spider webs have turned to silver, and the decorations have turned to gold! Katrusya and her family share the gift from the spiders with their whole village.
More Christmas resources
More Christmas posts from Gift of Curiosity:
- Grow a Christmas tree sponge
- Christmas Montessori activities
- Q-tip painted Christmas tree
- Paper plate reindeer craft
- Christmas sensory bin
- Cinnamon Christmas ornaments
- Candy cane experiment
- Christmas game: What’s in the bag?
- Christmas Printables Pack
- Christmas Bingo
- Christmas do-a-dot printables
- Christmas gingerbread man templates