It’s that time again. As soon as Halloween is over, it’s time to go full speed ahead for the holiday season. With Christmas just around the corner, you and your family are going to be inundated with holiday events. This time of the year can be very hectic, with parties at school, work gatherings, and shopping for loved ones. We don’t have a lot of time to spend with our families alone, and we don’t have a lot of time to rest, either.
The best holiday books help us relax, laugh, and get some much-needed rest when we’re stressed and overworked by a lot of different things going on at the same time. When we need to get back together and recharge, we read these Christmas books aloud to the whole family.
Top Christmas Picture Books for the Whole Family
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
First, we read The Polar Express. It was an instant hit with everyone in our family because it had beautiful illustrations that everyone likes. This book has become more and more popular because people are getting into the holiday spirit and going on live Polar Express train tours. We still love the old favorite because it’s a great way for us to snuggle up and read together.
If you want to find out more about live-action Polar Express experiences, read my recap of our trip to The Polar Express in Bryson City. Everyone in our family had a great time. It was a great way to make the magic and holiday spirit real for our kids. See if there are Polar Express tours in your area, so you can live the book’s story in real life!
The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
Do I need to say anything else? It’s the best Christmas book. We read this after we put out Santa’s cookies on Christmas Eve. This is one of my favorite things to do! A great Christmas book should have all of the things that make a good one, like Santa coming down the chimney and kids with sugar plums dancing in their heads. This is the original. The way Santa is described always makes my kids laugh. It’s a favorite in our family!
How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss
You’re a mean person. The Grinch is the best, isn’t he? There are a lot of things that make Mr. Grinch angry, but he doesn’t have any real reason to be angry at all. If you want to have a good time this Christmas, you should read this book. It’s full of silly drawings and rhyming fun!
Perfectly, this book shows how Dr. Seuss’ magic and whimsy have made him a favorite for so many kids and their families. This book is a must-read because of everything from the rhymes to the cute story to the bright illustrations. Plus, the message that the holidays are not about gifts is important for all kids to learn.
The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan Berenstain and Mike Berenstain
Isn’t it easy to forget about the real reason for the holidays when we’re all so busy? Great: This book has both the Berenstain Bears family that we all love to read about and the important lesson about giving. I love reading this to my kids because they can really understand what it means to give when these cute bears do it.
Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry
In a few years, we were given this book as a gift. I didn’t know that it had been around for so long. It’s great. The rhymes move quickly, which makes it fun to read and listen to. The girls love to watch the tree move from house to house because it brings Christmas cheer to all the animals in the forest. Make sure to look at this one!
Story Orchestra: The Nutcracker by Katy Flint
I think the School Library Journal said it best: This version of Hoffmann’s classic story is meant to help people learn about the ballet based on it. It tells people to press a musical note on each page to hear a short piece of Tchaikovsky’s music. While Clara is waiting for her toymaker godfather to arrive, guests of all ages and backgrounds, dressed in 19th-century style, are having a great time at the Christmas party her parents are hosting. The lively illustrations are done in a polished cartoon style, like the early Disney films. The text is set apart from the richly detailed images, surrounded by colorful shapes, flowers, or wreath-like designs.
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola
It’s hard for me to get enough of Strega Nona. This story shows the magic of Christmas and community with the help of Strega Nona, but also Big Anthony and Bambolona.
Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson
From the bear books: This is another one that’s so cute, but with a sweet Christmas twist! From Amazon, this is what you can get: They want to keep Bear awake for Christmas. Then, they wake Bear up and ask him to help them find a tree, bake cakes, put up stockings, and sing Christmas songs. As a Christmas gift, giving is one of the best.
The Nutcracker by ETA Hoffmann
As far as I know, there are many different versions of the Nutcracker. I like this one from ETA Hoffmann the best, as well as the orchestra version (see above). Because the illustrations by Maurice Sendak are so cute and interesting, the kids will not want to stop reading. It’s important to know that this is a more detailed version, too, with more information about battles and other things in it. Check to see if it’s a good match for you!
A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder
My heart is full of love for Little House books. Remember when your mom and dad read them to you when you were a child? Now, you can do the same with your kids. Our whole family likes Mary and Laura, and this collection of stories is one that I will keep and show to my grandchildren one day because it has been around for a long time. The illustrations make it a good choice for kids of all ages, too.
The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden
Warning: This book will make you cry. It’s more of a read-aloud than a picture book, but there are a lot of sweet little illustrations in the book to make it more fun. Don’t let the lack of pictures stop you from reading this book. It’s great for kids as young as 5 or 6 and is a great Christmas classic. If you don’t want to give away too much, it’s about an orphaned girl named Ivy who gets her Christmas wish with the help of two lonely people and a doll named Holly.
There’s nothing better than curling up with your favorite holiday book and reading it while you drink hot cocoa. It’s been one of the best ways for my family to come together and bond after a few too many holiday gatherings or when we haven’t had a chance to sit down. For some books that aren’t just for the holidays, but are good for ages 4-6, check out some of our favorite books for that age group here!
Other Ways to Bond During the Holiday Season
If you want to connect with your family during the busy holiday season, you don’t have to just read books together. A few of my favorite ways to spend time with my family.
Kitchen Crafts and Holiday Baking
In our family, one of our favorite things to do each year is get together in the kitchen for some easy to make (and a lot of times tasty) kitchen crafts for kids and holiday baking. There are a lot of fun things you can do in the kitchen with your kids, from making snowDOUGH to baking sugar cookies. Peppermint candy ornaments are also one of our favorite things to make. They are easy and fun for everyone to make. Decorated sugar cookies make great gifts for friends and neighbors. Not only that, but they also get to have fun! A fun ribbon and a lot of pretty paper make easy gifts for people you care about. Your family made them for them.
Make sure to check out the theme week we had last year in our homeschool and called COOKIE WEEK. If you’re more into STEM projects, check it out.
Family Movie Night
It’s also a great way for everyone to connect during this busy time. You can have a family movie night. Holiday movies, popcorn, and treats are all that’s needed to enjoy a night in front of the TV. Check out my list of 17 Classic Christmas Movies for Preschoolers and pick one or two that you and your family can enjoy together. People who make a fire and wear fun holiday pajamas while they watch will get extra points. You can find many different things to do with older kids on the market. Do a little holiday movie testing to find the best movies for your family to watch together.