15 Classic Holiday Tales for Children

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Whether you’re gearing up to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or other traditions, get in the spirit of the season with these tales of classic holiday characters.

Available at the library or your local bookstore, these classics will undoubtedly excite and engage your children in the spirit of giving and will live on in their hearts well into adulthood.

The Snowy Day – by Ezra Jack Keats

Remember seeing the first big snow of the season when you were young? Share the wonders and memories with your kids as you follow Peter through a day of snowbound, urban adventures. Praised for its unique illustrations and multicultural characters, this Caldecott-medal-winning treat is considered a modern classic.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! – Dr. Seuss

A list of holiday classics wouldn’t be complete without Dr. Seuss’ famous tale of the Grinch—the perpetually grumpy and cynical creature born with a heart “two sizes too small.” Read this classic tale to your children and take them along as Grinch’s attempts to destroy Christmas are thwarted and he comes to discover the true meaning of Christmas—and grows a bigger heart at the same time.

Twas theNight Before Christmas – by Clement C. Moore and adapted/illustrated by Jessie Wilcox Smith

Ever wonder how Santa came up with names like Dasher, Dancer, Blitzen and Rudolph? Turns out it was legendary poet Clement C. Moore who solidified the now-traditional Santa narrative with this 1822 poem. No Christmas Eve would be complete without the infamous opening line, “’Twas the night before Christmas…”

Hanukkah! – by Roni Schotter and Illusrated by Marylin Hafner (winner of the National Jewish Book Award)

Follow Nora, Dan, Ruthie, Sam, and baby Moe as they make latkes, dreidels, and light the final candle on the menorah. There’s no better time to educate your children about the deep traditions of this special holiday and the one-page “Story of Hanukkah” and glossary of Hanukkah terms makes sharing the history of the holiday that much easier.

The Polar Express – by Chris Van Allsburg

As a child, can you imagine anything more exhilarating than a midnight train ride to the North Pole to personally meet the man-in-red? In his Caldecott-medal winner The Polar Express, Allsburg tells the story of a boy who experiences just that. If your children are teetering on the edge of belief, share with them this classic story about the magic of believing.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins – by Eric A. Kimmel

On the eve of Hanukkah, Hershel arrives in a village ready to have some Menorah-lighting fun – only to find that the villagers are held hostage from celebrating by a group of horrible goblins. This Caldecott Honor book follows Hershel as he uses his wits to dispel the goblins from the synagogue, in this clever update on the story of Hanukkah.

Seven Spools of Thread, A Kwanzaa Story – by Angela Shelf Medearis and Daniel Minter

Weaving together the art of folk tales with the seven principles of Kwanzaa, Seven Spools of Thread tells the story of seven brothers who must work together to make gold out of seven spools of thread. The book’s lessons are a great introduction to and celebration of the ideas behind Kwanzaa.

Frosty the Snowman – by Jack Rollins and Steve Nelson
Great for learning readers, this book lends festive illustrations to the lyrics of the popular winter tune. Your little readers can follow Frosty and his friends in their snowy adventure, or you can share the fun with them with this perfect read-aloud book.

The Nutcracker – by Susan Jeffers

New York Times bestselling artist Susan Jeffers shares the magic of the Nutcracker ballet through her enchanting illustrations. With only a few lines of text, this book will captivate any audience, regardless of reading level.

A Christmas Carol – by Charles Dickens

While many are familiar with Charles Dickens’ tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, not everyone has taken the time to experience the story in its original form. Dickens’ language is humorous, insightful and still accessible to modern readers, and it makes a classic seasonal introduction to the Victorian literature for older children.

Celebrating Kwanzaa – by Diane Hoyt-Goldsmith and Lawrence Migdale

Celebrating Kwanzaa follows a Chicago family as they celebrate the African traditions of the holiday, with photos and text by the author and photographer who spent the holiday with them. The seven principles along with other Kwanzaa symbols and traditions are explained throughout the book, making Celebrating Kwanzaa a lovely narrative of one family’s celebration and the story behind the holiday.

Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah – by Maida Silverman

Share the story of Judah Maccabee leading his people against the invading armies of Syria -- action packed, even by today’s standards. Of course, the story also explains the origins of the celebration of Hanukkah, with engaging pictures and a guide to making your own dreidel.

Olive, the Other Reindeer – by Vivian Walsh, Illustrated by J.otto Seibold

This silly story tells the tale of Olive the dog, who interprets the lyrics of “all of the other reindeer” as “Olive, the other reindeer,” and resolves to take her place at the North Pole. Your kids will helplessly giggling over Olive’s antics and adventures, and don’t be surprised if you’re charmed into cracking a smile yourself.

The Mitten – by Jan Brett

This traditional Ukrainian story follows a little boy who loses his snow-white mitten – and the animals who try to make it their new home. Jan Brett’s charming illustrations are ornate in their detail, and the expressions on the animals’ faces will delight kids of any age.

Winter Lights: A Season in Poems and Quilts – by Anna Grossnickle Hines

The all-inclusive poems and quilt images in this book follow every nuance of the winter season, from the aurora borealis to Chinese New Year. Winter Lights’ span makes it a delight to read in all the winter months, celebrating all the different joys of the chilly season.