One of the most fun traditions we’ve brought into our family is the annual Christmas Book Advent Countdown – one book read each night starting December 1st until December 24th. It’s a fabulous way to spend time together, to connect amidst the chaos, and to encourage a love of reading.
This idea has been circulating on the internet for about as long as I can remember, so I don’t know where to give credit, but it’s definitely worth the time and effort to make this part of your family’s holiday routine. There are generally two main questions folk ask when the idea comes up: what books should you buy and how do you afford it?!
So, I decided to list out some of our all time favourite holiday books that have made the advent countdown pile in our house, as well as some insight on how we built up the collection. I’ve linked to each title to an online version that was available when I created this list; I’ve also created a ‘Wish List’ on the Chapters website with 24 options (not all exactly the same as this list, as there were a few titles they didn’t have) if you want a really quick way to find them all – but it won’t be the most cost-effective way to purchase a full collection.
A few tips for finding enough books without spending your entire holiday budget: watch for great sales, especially the book bundles through Scholastic (you can often find 10 holiday books for $20, making it easy to build up the library), spend time at thrift shops and second-hand book stores, and consider buying group sets of books that you can split up. When we first started this with our kids, I bought a set of 12 board books that told the story of Rudolph and used that to make up half the countdown! You can also add in some library books, or ask friends and family to gift holiday books in baby’s first year to build a library. You’ll find it doesn’t take as long as you thought to get to 24 books … or even 48! (Yes, I may have a bit of an obsession when it comes to holiday books!)
Six Board Books
There are some truly lovely Christmas board books for little ones. Don’t worry that these will only last the baby years; we still have a few board books that have been read for nearly a decade here. Now, a few of our favourites!
Bear Stays Up for Christmas is a great story of friendship that’s a pleasure to read.
Fa La La by Leslie Patricelli is a family favourite, as are most of Patricelli’s titles! (If you don’t own Potty yet and have a little one, I highly suggest the investment.)
Counting Christmas Karen Katz is another author that families with little ones should get to know; her Christmas counting book is a great introduction if you don’t already know her fun rhymes and colourful photos.
Duck & Goose, It’s Time for Christmas These books are seriously so cute! You can’t go wrong with Duck & Goose, especially for a bedtime cuddle.
A Christmas Carol: A BabyLit Colors Primer The BabyLit books are a fabulous way to introduce classic characters to your little ones; A Christmas Carol is of course a must for this collection!
Snowmen at Christmas A New York Times Bestseller that imagines what snowmen do while we sleep. I love having a few wintery books for early on in the countdown and this is a fantastic choice!
Four More Winter Books
Earlier in December, I don’t always want to be reading full-on Christmas stories, so mixing in some winter-themed tales about snowmen and storms can be a great way to ease into things.
Sneezy the Snowman This might just be my favourite winter story of all time! There’s something about Sneezy and his rhymes that draw me in every time. We’ve actually worn out our original copy!
The Biggest Snowball Fight Around Another favourite that is feeling the wear & tear of many, many family readings! The Biggest Snowball Fight Around appeals to my small-town nature and the magic that can bring a community together.
Over and Under the Snow is a new book for our family, but I think it’s a wonderfully illustrated book that teaches about hibernation and wildlife in winter.
The Snow Knows is an award-winning, New Brunswick-created book with stunning pictures and perfectly-chosen words that share the joy of snow.
Six Canadian Books
I make an effort to ensure a lot of our books (as well as our music, movies, and TV shows) are Canadian made, so of course I needed to highlight some of our favourite seasonal books from Canadian authors and illustrators.
Fox and Squirrel The Best Christmas Ever Ruth Ohi’s Fox and Squirrel are favourite friends in our house, so we’re thrilled when they make their Christmas appearance!
A Moose in a Maple Tree This book was a wonderful surprise delivery from a special family friend – and it has quickly become THE story AND song of our family holiday.
A Bluenose Twelve Days of Christmas I’m not always a fan of these types of remakes, I’ll admit, but given my Nova Scotian roots, I had to pick this one up. The illustrations are such fun!
Gadzooks the Christmas Goose New Brunswick stories get lots of love in our home, too, including this wonderful tale from Jennifer McGrath, set on the shores of Shepody Bay.
Santa Never Brings Me A Banjo David Myles’ song quickly became a classic in our home, and I was thrilled with Nimbus commissioned lovely artwork to turn it into a holiday book.
Finding Christmas Robert Munsch shares his storytelling talents – and his own family’s traditions – in this Canadian Christmas tale.
Two More Favourites
The Legend of Mistletoe and the Christmas Kittens This was a surprise read that tugged at all our heartstrings.
Mooseltoe This silly tale of the Moose family’s preparations for the holidays is a fun read for all!
Five Silly Books
Santa’s Reindeer Games You NEED to do the silly voices with this one – it’ll be a hoot for everyone!
Fly Guy’s Ninja Christmas Our trio love Fly Guy, and his Christmas story is as wonderful as the rest. I also love that it’s an easy book for young readers, too.
Santa Duck A silly tale of a duck on a search for Santa. Our kiddos get such a kick out of this one!
Home Alone as an illustrated book for children is quite fun – and a great way to introduce your little ones to the classic movie! The sequel is also available now, as is A Die Hard Christmas, which is not necessarily a kids’ book, but it makes a fun gift for movie fans on your list!
Dragon’s Merry Christmas by Dav Pilkey (of Dog Man fame) is another newer title in our collection, but is on its way to also becoming a family favourite; it’s also great for early readers to attempt on their own!
That brings us to 23 titles … but I need to add one more bonus entry before the traditional Christmas Eve story. Did you know there are a series of Five Mr. Men & Little Miss Christmas Books! We have five of these awesome little books – sometimes I wrap them up as one and make sure it’s marked for a weekend opening. 🙂 Mr. Men 12 Days of Christmas, Mr. Men A Christmas Carol, Mr. Men The Night Before Christmas, Mr. Christmas, and Little Miss Christmas are all enjoyable reads.
And of course, a classic version of The Night Before Christmas is always a treasure to choose as the book you open on December 24th! Jan Brett has a lovely rendition that we enjoy, and you can also find board book versions for little ones if you wish.
And if your family is ready for something a little more in-depth, considering picking up a copy of The House of Wooden Santas by Kevin Major. This is a lovely tale of a little family and their journey to make a new home and a new life, told in 24 chapters that make a wonderful read aloud family tale each night of December leading up to Christmas.
We LOVE adding new holiday stories to our collection; please share some of your favourites below! And maybe you’ll enjoy reading these posts, as well.