Christmas Around the World title

    I think that the subject of "Christmas around the world," is a fun and interesting way to introduce students to different cultures.  With the help of a wide range of literature, the students have the opportunity to learn about how cultures around the world celebrate Christmas differently, and also how some Christmas traditions may be the same.  Through learning about how different countries celebrate Christmas, the students may also find out that some of the unique ways that their families celebrate Christmas originated in another country.

Chapter Books


Tripp, V. (1997). Josefina’s Surprise. Wisconsin: Pleasant Company Publications.

            Josefina and her family are having a difficult Christmas, because it is their first after Josefina’s mother passed away.  Through the town’s grand celebration that the family prepares for, the reader is introduced to many Mexican traditions.  The author incorporates a variety of Spanish words throughout the story, and a glossary is provided in the back of the book.  This book provides a fun and easy read to help the reader get acquainted with the Spanish culture through the memorable character, Josefina.  However, this book does have a gender bias in the sense that it is geared towards girls, and would be seen negatively if a boy read the book.



Yep, L. (2000) Dream Soul. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

            Joan Lee and her family experience their first American Christmas in West Virginia.  Joan wants to be able to fit into the American culture, especially join in the Christmas celebrations.  Joan’s parents are reluctant to allow their children immerse themselves in American culture, but her parents use being able to participate in Christmas activities as an incentive for their children to be on their best behavior.  Joan embraces her Chinese heritage and new interest in the American ways during a family crisis, when her father becomes very ill.  This book is a captivating story that provides unique examples of how Eastern and Western cultures can contrast, but also blend well together when one is tolerant and respectful of both cultures.  I think that this book is effective in showing how one from another culture tries to adapt to another culture, and provides an important lesson of tolerance and accepting one’s own heritage.


Picture Books


 Blazek, S. (1995). An Irish Night Before Christmas. Louisiana: Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

This book is the Irish version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  Within the poem are Gaelic words, and the translations are provided.  There are also words that are particular to the Irish culture, but no English translations are provided, and so the poem is hard to follow at times.  However, each page is colorfully illustrated, depicting what is occurring in each stanza of the poem.  The pictures also reveal many aspects of the Irish culture, particularly pertaining to Christmas traditions.  This book could provide a great activity of students creating their own “Night Before Christmas” poems, including elements from their own cultures and family traditions. 


Latin America

Delacre, L. (1990). Las Navidades: Popular Christmas Songs from Latin America. New York: Scholastic Inc.

            This book contains a collection of Christmas songs from Latin America that tell about some tradition that is celebrated at Christmas time.  Each song is presented in Spanish and also the English translation is provided.  The pictures on each page illustrate the tradition that the song is describing.  Along with the song, there is a brief description at the bottom of each page telling what the picture is about.  This book is excellent to teach students about Spanish culture and how Christmas is celebrated in Latin America, since the pictures, the songs, and the informational descriptions are all very engaging.  I think that students would enjoy learning how to sing a Christmas song in Spanish.


 De Paola, T. (1980) The Family Christmas Tree Book. New York: Holiday House.

            Through the story of an American family putting of their Christmas tree, the reader learns about how Christmas trees are celebrated in other countries.  Multiple stories of how the Christmas tree was created are told by the parents of the family, and the different types of Christmas trees are depicted through colorful illustrations.  This book is an easy to read fictional story that provides bits of interesting facts about Christmas trees from around the world.  This book would be interesting for students to see how Christmas trees differ around the world, and it is also a cute story to read about a family enjoying their American Christmas tree.


Mountain Village

Edens, C. (1997). Nicholi. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

            The story in this book does not come from a specific country or culture, but it does tell about a unique snow carving carnival that a small mountain village has each Christmas.  A mysterious man, Nicholi, who has an astonishing resemblance to Santa Claus, creates the most beautiful snow sculpture of a sleigh and reindeer.  Nicholi takes the village children on a magical ride in his snow sculpture, and then disappears along with the sculpture.  This story is enchanting and unique, and would show the students a unique way to celebrate Christmas through a snow sculpting contest.  



 Hoffman, E. (1999). The Nutcracker. New York: DK Publishing, Inc.

            This book tells the classic story of Marie, the nutcracker, and how the nutcracker comes to life, traveling to magical places with Marie.  On each page are detailed and colored drawings, along with photographs of historical objects that help explain certain aspects of the story.  This particular version of The Nutcracker would help students familiarize themselves with a variety of different aspects from German culture because of the interesting information that the photographs and descriptions provide.  The version found in the book tells a slightly different story than students may be familiar with from the ballet.


Martinez, E., & Soto, G. (1993). Too Many Tamales. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

    This book depicts Christmas celebrated by a Spanish family.  In the story, a little girl, Maria, and her mother enjoy making tamales for the Christmas feast.  In the spirit of Christmas, Maria’s mother allows her to wear perfume and lipstick, and Maria also wishes that she could wear her mother’s beautiful, diamond ring.  When Mara’s mother sets the ring down while making the tamales, she is tempted to put it on, and it becomes lost while she makes the tamales with her mother.  This book would be helpful to introduce students to ethnic foods that families from other cultures make for Christmas while teaching them a lesson about telling the truth and responsibility.




Mayer, M. Mayer, M. (2001). The Real Santa Claus. New York: Phyllis Fogelman Books.

            This book explores the real man, St. Nicholas, behind today’s myth of Santa Claus.  St. Nicholas was a bishop, and used his position to help many people, and he was said to have also performed miracles.  The book provides detailed information about St. Nicholas’s life from birth to death, along with historical pictures of St. Nicholas.  This book would only be appropriate for students who no longer believe in Santa Claus, because it spells out that Santa Claus does not really exist in the sense that children picture him.  This background information on the real Santa Claus would help students realize where the myth of Santa Claus came from, and what St. Nicholas did to become known as such a great man.  This book could also help students realize that the Christmas spirit is in helping others, and being kind, not just through giving gifts.


Weil, L. (1987). Santa Claus Around the World. New York: Holiday House.

            This book features Santa Clauses from a variety of countries, and how he is viewed and celebrated differently in each country.  In this book, Santa Claus is depicted from the countries: the Netherlands, France, England, Germany, Russia, Korea, and even more.  A brief description of how the tale of Santa Claus began is also included.  Illustrations are provided for each Santa Claus so that the reader is able to visualize what Santa Claus from a particular country would look like.  This book would be very effective in teaching students that even though people from around the world are different, we also have a lot in common.  Students would be interested to see that there is not only one way to view Santa Claus, and how other countries celebrate Santa Claus “coming to town.”


(names given are translator, illustrator and editor)



Bierhorst, J. (1984). Spirit Child: A Story of the Nativity. New York: William Morrow and Company.

`           This book provides an Aztec version of the Christmas story-Jesus’ birth.  The tale combines stories from the Bible, medieval legends and traditional Aztec lore.  The illustrations in the book depict persons of dark skin and black hair, representing those from the Spanish culture.  In the story, a few aspects of the traditional tale are altered, but it mainly follows the same chain of events.  It is important to note that this is a religious tale, and should be used with discretion, especially in public schools.  However, I think that it would be interesting for students to read the Christmas story as told from a different culture, and students from the culture would appreciate the tale.


 DePaola, T. (1979). The Cat on the Dovrefell a Christmas Tale. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

            This folktale tells a story about Halvor and his great white bear.  On their journey to see the King of Denmark, Halvor and his polar bear seek shelter at a home where trolls expect a feast every Christmas Eve.  The trolls are scared by the great white bear, and never bother the family again.  This would be an excellent book to introduce students to folktales with because the story is interesting and easy to understand.  The students are also exposed to a Christmas story from another country as well.


 Sawyer, R. (1968). The Wee Christmas Cabin of Carn-na-ween. New York: Viking Penguin Inc.

This folktale tells a story about a little girl who is left at family’s doorstep by a caravan.  The family takes in the little girl whom they name Oona, and raise her as their own child, but when Oona grew up no one would marry her because she was from a gypsy family.  Despite disappointment and rejection, Oona had a big heart, and was very charitable during the famine.  Near death from hunger, Oona was encountered by The Gentle People (fairies), and they built her a terrific cabin supplied with food for Oona to feed herself and the townspeople with.  This folktale was difficult to read, but would be worth it for the teacher to provide a simplified version for the students.  The folktale could also be done as a read aloud, and the teacher could explain the story as she reads.  Many Gaelic words are incorporated in the story, and is rich with the Irish culture.




Lankford, M. (1995).  Christmas Around the World. New York: Morrow Junior Books.

            In this book, there is a collection of countries with a descriptive page on how that country celebrates Christmas.  The countries are listed in alphabetical order beginning with Australia and ending with the United States, specifically Alaska.  For each country, there is one page of easy to read information about the country’s celebrations, and then a colorful picture depicting people from that country celebrating Christmas.  In the back of the book, there are instructions on how to make a Christmas craft from a variety of countries.  This book is very informative and interesting to read.  The book would be very useful for students to get an overview of how different countries celebrate Christmas.  Even though the book is an informational book, it is fun to read, and the activities would be fun to do with a class.



Sechrist, E. (1998). Christmas Everywhere. Detroit: Omnigraphics.

            This book provides a collection of Christmas celebrations from every region of the world.  The descriptions of each Christmas celebration are very detailed, yet easy to read and follow for younger readers.  The book is mainly informational, but also includes a few short stories, poems and songs.  This book is a good resource for students to learn many things about Christmas celebrations in different countries.   

Christmas around the world image

Professional Resource Links

Have you ever wondered how people in Iceland celebrate Christmas?  Click here--->   World View

 Would you like to know which countries celebrate Christmas during summer?  Click here --->   North Pole

Need some Christmas around the world lesson plan ideas?  Click here --->  Education World

Created by: Cassandra Krack

December 2003