Authors note: This blog was originally posted in 2018, but because we LOVE how books can bring people together, we’re re-posting this for the holiday season. Enjoy these recommendations together with loved ones over a cup of hot cocoa, or even across distances on a virtual call.
Talking about religious holidays and traditions to your child, outside of your own, can be a little challenging. Mostly because many holidays are just unknown to us. It can sometimes be hard to talk about other holiday traditions and celebrations without some help. Books are a perfect tool for this because they can do the talking for us. They can also have pictures to help build your child’s understanding.
You and your child may find out things you didn’t know, even about a holiday you do celebrate. For holidays different from those that you celebrate, books can also give you and your child a quick overview or summary. One book might make your child want to explore other books, talk to friends or classmates, or do online searches to learn more.
Below is a list of books that introduce some of the holidays celebrated around the world during this season.
Holiday: Yule (winter solstice; normally around 12/21 or 12/22) – celebrated by some Northern European countries, Pagans and Wiccans to celebrate the return of light according to seasons, daylight, and warmth.
Book: Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth (Holiday Series) by Dorothy Morrison
Holiday: Hanukkah (religious calendar time; late November into late December) – celebrated by those with Jewish faith over an eight-day Festival of Lights honoring the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem.
Book: The Story of Hanukkah by David A. Adler
Holiday: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (12/24 and 12/25) – celebrated by those in the Christian faith who celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.
Book: The Christmas Story by Jane Werner Watson (a short “Little Golden Book” that focuses on the retelling of the religious background of Christmas traditions).
Holiday: Kwanzaa (12/26 – 1/1) – A seven-day holiday that celebrates African culture. On the sixth day of Kwanzaa, there’s a Kwanzaa Karamu, which is a feast and celebration through gift giving, the lighting of the Kinara, and performing traditional music.
Book: Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford and Shelly Hehenberger
Holiday: Las Posadas (12/16 – 12/24) celebrated mainly in Latin America, Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, and some Hispanics in the United States, a nine-day celebration before Christmas that encourages participants to re-enact and play the parts of Mary, Joseph, and others.
Book: The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola
Holiday: Lunar New Year (normally between mid-January to mid-February)–celebrated in China, Vietnam, and Korea, Lunar New Year is a time where families cook foods that represent good luck and fortune, pass out lucky red envelopes, and spend time with each other.
Book: Bringing in the New Year by Grace Lin
What, when, and how much?
Some families have concerns about this topic. Some people wonder: How much should I teach other religious practices? Will this confuse my child – there are so many holidays and religions out there! Where do I start and how do I choose?
Take a deep breath and relax!
Find comfort in knowing that you can’t go wrong here. The acknowledgment and awareness that there are MANY holidays out there in the world is the point of exploring other traditions. If it’s important to you and your family to teach about your specific religion or holiday celebration, of course, use your values and judgment. A good practice would be to start or end each reading session with a book related to your cultural or religious practice.
Discuss during the holidays and continue the conversation
Giving your child this preview into the world and its various traditions and cultures will likely help them become more curious. When your child has a question about why a classmate might act differently than they do, this is a good way to remind them that we are all unique in many ways. When your child also has questions about traditions, race, or equality, you can reflect on the exploring you did during the holiday season. It’s a great example of how learning can help us create a more present and open mind to the beautiful and diverse world around us!
Now that you’ve seen our list, what are some of your favorite holiday books? What questions have come from your children that center around religion, traditions, or culture?