A Christmas Read Aloud Around the World

For all things Advent and Christmas season, make your first stop this oneHere, you will find daily devotions, thoughtful essays, great ideas on traditions and books, tutorials, recipes, crafts, and a 45 minute podcast that will feed your soul and help you to take care of yourself this season. So go here first; then please enjoy all the books suggestions in this post. 

Several years ago, Colleen and I put our heads together to come up with a slightly different "school" plan for Advent. I knew the Tomie de Paola unit by heart and so did my children. Those books, dear and familiar, are still the steady foundation upon which we build our literature and learning this time of year. But that year, grief was raw in Colleen's household and our family had traveled a sad road with them. Together, we were immersed in a yearlong geography study and we thought we'd dig a little deeper into the Advent and Christmas traditions around the world, while still intentionally planning to revisit some seasonal favorites.

I've dusted those plans off, added a few fresh ideas, and plan to introduce them to the little girls who were just babies last time we did this unit study. 

Beautiful Books to Learn From:

We'll use these books for read-alouds and narration during this season.  I'll read a chapter or two of the Lankford book to the children at the beginning of the week, then at the end of the week, open the scene from the pop-up book and have them narrate what they see there based on what they have learned that week and note anything important the scene may be missing.

Advent Week 1: Focus on Germany, Poland

Traditions to Learn About: Advent Traditions Around the World

Links for research:
German Christmas Customs
The History of the Advent Wreath
Polish Christmas Traditions
Overview and Links to Individual Feasts in Poland

Books to Illustrate the Idea:
Silent Night
Waiting for Christmas
Waiting for Noel: An Advent Story

Stories for Preparing Little Hearts:
When It Snowed that Night
Who's Coming to Our House?
Country Angel Christmas
B is for Bethlehem

Fireside Tales: 
Gingerbread Friends
Gingerbread Baby
Papa's Angels
The Little Match Girl


Recipes to Try:





Ornaments for Your Tree: Sculpey Gingerbread Men, Houses


By Hand With Heart: Throwing Chestnuts (a fun gift for siblings, cousins, neighbors, friends)


Advent Week 2: Focus on Russia, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia

Traditions to Learn About: St. Nicholas Around the World

LinksSt. Nicholas Center's Around the World Page
Scandinavian Christmas Traditions
Russian Christmastide
The Real Father Christmas
Books to Illustrate the Idea:
The Miracle of St. Nicholas
The Legend of St. Nicholas
Wonder Worker
St. Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
The Real St. Nicholas
The Baker's Dozen: A St. Nicholas Tale
The Miraculous Child: A Christmas Folk Tale from Old Russia 
The Wild Christmas Reindeer

Feasts to Celebrate:
St. Nicholas
Immaculate Conception
Our Lady of Guadelupe

Stories for Preparing Little Hearts:
Donkey's Dream
The Friendly Beasts
St. Francis and the Christmas Donkey 
Lady of Guadelupe

Fireside Tales:
Miracle of 34th Street
The Polar Express
Christmas Trolls
Trouble with Trolls

The Hat

The Mitten

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Brett)

The Night before Christmas (Brett and others)

Recipes to Try:

Russian Christmas Coffee Cake   

Russian Tea Cakes

Russian Spice Tea


Ornaments for Your Tree: Wee Wooden St. Nicholases


By Hand With Heart: Matroyshka Dolls (You can order blank dolls here  ....consider decoupaging them with photos of siblings or cousins or grandchildren and giving them as a family gift.)



Advent Week 3: Focus on Mexico, the British Isles

Traditions to Learn About: Christmas Decorations Around the World

Links for further research:  

Mexican Christmas Traditions

The Great British Christmas

Books to Illustrate the Idea:
The Legend of the Poinsettia
The Legend of the Christmas Tree
The Night of Las Posadas
Cobweb Christmas 
The Christmas Tree 
St. Francis Celebrates Christmas 

Feasts to Celebrate:  
St. Lucy    

Stories for Preparing Little Hearts:                         
This is the Star
O Holy Night: Harlem Boys' Choir
Room for a Little One 

Fireside Tales:

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey

Why Christmas Trees Aren't Perfect

A Wish to be a Christmas Tree

The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree 
An Orange For Frankie 

Recipes to Try:

Mexican Orange Spice Cookies

Mexican Hot Chocolate

Mulled Cider

British Christmas Cake


Ornaments for Your Tree:  Victorian Ball Ornament (Search the web from some inspiring images, start with styrofoam balls, then use things already in your craft cabinets to glitz them up-fabric scraps, sequins, beads, glitter, feathers--so many possibilities.  Sophisitcation and charm are your goals.)


By Hand With HeartChristmas Crackers (An easy gift for neighborhood friends or homeschool groups or a nice addition to a feast day table during Advent.)


Advent Week 4: Focus on the Holy Land

Traditions to Learn About: The Holy Places of the Christmas Story, Nativity Scenes from Around the World

Links for research:
St. Francis and The Christmas Creche
Books to Illustrate the Point:

The Legend of the Christmas Rose

The Crippled Lamb

Bright Christmas: An Angel Remembers
King of the Stable
There Was No Snow on Christmas Eve 
The Christmas Bird 
The Shepherd's Christmas Story

Feasts to Celebrate:
St. Stephen

Stories for Preparing Little Hearts:
 Stephen's Feast 
Good King Wenceslaus 
Jane Ray: The Story of Christmas
A Christmas Story (Wildsmith)
The Very First Christmas 

Fireside Tales: 

Tomie dePaola: Jingle the Christmas Clown

The First Christmas Stocking

 A Small Miracle

Tomie dePaola: The Clown of God

Recipes to Try:

Mince Meat Pies 
Explanation: When the Crusaders came back to England, they brought with them spices from the Holy Land. These spices were added to huge pies made of meats of various kinds, minced very fine and enclosed in pastry. The pies were oblong in shape, to represent the manger. A depression was made in the top to hold a figure of the Infant Jesus, which was removed just before the pie was cut.


Ornaments for Your Tree: Popsicle Stick Nativity Grottos (Create small grotto shapes out of popsicle sticks, glue your favorite image of the nativity in the center and decorate with stones, jewels or sequins.), Paper Stars , Pine Cone Angels


By Hand With Heart: Wee Wooden Holy Families (Paint or design sets of wooden holy families for little ones' stockings.)  Blank pegs available here. 


Christmas Week: Focus on Italy, France, Spain

Traditions to Learn About: Christmas Foods Around the World

Links for Research: 
Tons of explanations, recipes, and further links to follow

Stories to Illustrate the Point:
 The Huron Carol 
The Legend of the Candy Cane
Merry Christmas, Strega Nona!
The Gift of the Christmas Cookie 

Feasts to Celebrate:
Mary, the Mother of God

Preparing Little Hearts:
Tomie dePaola: Mary: The Mother of Jesus
Mary Mother of Jesus 

Fireside Tales:

Christmas Cookies: Bite-Sized Holiday Lessons 

Recipes to Try: Your favorite cookies

Ornaments for Your Tree: beaded candy canes , salt dough cookie ornaments (Make and roll out the dough, let the kids cut them with holiday cutters, poke a small hole on the top of each with the tip of a pencil before baking.  When cooled, let the kids paint them to resemble iced and decorated cookies. Tie a ribbon through the hole and hang.)


By Hand With Heart: Cocoa Mix and Peppermint Marshmallows (Consider bringing these as hostess gifts when you do your holiday visiting).


New Year's Week: Focus on Central and South America

Traditions to Learn About: Epiphany Traditions Around the World

Links for Research:
Epiphany Traditions from World Wide Gourmet 
Twelfth Night 

Stories that Illustrate the Point:
 A Gift for the Christ Child 
Baboushka and the Three Kings 
Tomie dePaola: The Legend of Old Befana

Feasts to Celebrate:


Preparing Little Hearts:
We Three Kings 
 Tomie dePaola: The Story of the Three Wise Kings
 The Visit of the Wise Men 

Fireside Tales:

Max Lucado: Jacob's Gift

The Little Drummer Boy
The Last Straw 
Recipes to Try: Make a version of King's Cake: FrenchMexican , Spanish, or New Orelans Style


Ornaments for Your Tree: bejeweled crowns


By Hand With Heart: Wee Wooden Magi (Make a sets of Wee Wooden Magi for little ones to enjoy.) Blank pegs available here.