Understandably, movies are the more popular choice during the Christmas season. However, some of the most wonderful pieces of literature are centered around this holiday, resulting in wonderful stories about family, forgiveness, and the beauty of Christ’s birth.
Each of these seventeen books reflect the Christmas spirit in their own way, whether by directly addressing the story of Jesus’s birth or by looking at how the world celebrates the holiday. I have loved some of these choices from a very young age and I hope that your family will come to enjoy them as well.
1. Lois Lenski’s Christmas Stories
This is a collection of Christmas themed stories, songs, plays, and poems pulled together by Lois Lenski, a wonderful children’s book illustrator. Each story, song, etc. focuses on different aspects of past Christmases around America. Some are Puritan, some are set in the Bayou, some are centered around a simple farmer’s Christmas. The choices are quaint and sweet, made even more memorable by Lenski’s lovely illustrations.
If your students have been using Dave Raymond’s History series, these stories are a great addition to his American History and Modern World History courses.
2. Maggie Rose: Her Birthday Christmas by Ruth Sawyer
Maggie Rose will always hold a special place in my heart. Every year for as long as I can remember, my mother would read this book out loud to me and my sisters, and would always cry at the end. I promise you will want to try to track down this beautiful story and read it to your family this Christmas season as well. It is the story of a little girl, Maggie Rose, who shares a birthday with Jesus as she puts it and has always wanted to throw a fantastic celebration in honor of both birthdays.
3. The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry
Most of you are probably familiar with this short story. A young married couple struggling to provide for themselves sacrifice their most precious possessions for each other. Written by O. Henry, a famous short story author, the story is incredibly touching and has also been made into many short films.
We have created a PDF version of this delightful story that you can download for free right here.
4. Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien
This is one of the more unique entries on this list. Every Christmas J. R. R. Tolkien, author of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, wrote his children a letter as if he were Father Christmas. The letters showcase Tolkien’s sense of humor and give us a glimpse into his family life, specifically his relationship with his young sons.
In our course Writing with Hobbits, professor Jonathan Rogers uses Tolkien’s literature to teach students how to write well. They would really enjoy reading his personal letters!
5. Christmas Stories From Grandma’s Attic by Arleta Richardson
Arleta Richardson wrote a series of books made up of short stories about her grandmother’s funny and endearing life. This book is a compilation of all the stories her grandmother told her of Christmases from her childhood all the way through motherhood. I always enjoyed reading these stories and will still flip through them now. Some of them are genuinely hilarious, others are tearjerkers, and some are embarrassingly relatable.
6. Rembrandt: The Christmas Story
Another unique entry, this little book is a great asset to your homeschool, especially during the Christmas season. It is a collection of Rembrandt’s most beautiful paintings of the first few chapters of Luke that serve as illustrations to the passages of Scripture. While relatively simple, the stunning paintings provide a touching visual to the most beautiful story ever told.
7. The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Another book regularly read during my childhood Christmases, Family Under the Bridge is one of the sweetest stories I have ever had the privilege of reading. Set in France in the 1930s, the plot is relatively simple but the characters seem to leap off the page, inviting each reader to invest in their fictional, sympathetic lives. Like Maggie Rose and the Birthday Christmas, every family should have this book in their Christmas story stash.
8. The Lion in the Box by Marguerite de Angeli
I have always loved this short chapter book. As the oldest of three sisters, the story resonated with me since the main characters are also sisters. Despite its brief length, The Lion in the Box will make you laugh and cry and give thanks for the blessings God has given you and your family. I would highly recommend adding this book to your Christmas collection.
9. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
This Sherlock Holmes short story is a comical depiction of a Christmas misunderstanding. It is one of Doyle’s more unique Sherlock Holmes stories but one of his most enjoyable. This would make for a genuinely fun family read aloud that everyone would like.
10. A Certain Small Shepherd by Rebecca Caudill
Another short story, I didn’t read this one till I was in high school. Though written for children, I was surprised at how touched I was by the simple story. Centered around a widower and his three children, the youngest of whom, a son, was born mute. The story is so pure and lovely, it is a wonderful choice for a family read aloud.
11. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
Simultaneously hilarious and tear-jerking, most of you probably read this as a child. Though written specifically for children, I still read it every Christmas. The author brings her characters to life in such a realistic way that delights her readers. It is a moving combination of real life and the story of the Gospel.
12. Hercule Poirot’s Christmas by Agatha Christie
An unusual addition to this list is one of Agatha Christie’s best mystery stories. Hercule Poirot is always a fascinating character, and this particular story takes place during Christmas. Not many of Christie’s novels are set during holidays, but this book is one of my favorites. There isn’t much mention of the meaning of Christmas, but it’s still a fun option.
13. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
There really isn’t much I can say about this particular book; it’s been around long enough to speak for itself.
14. The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern
This short story is connected to two famous Christmas tales: A Christmas Carol and It’s A Wonderful Life. Based on Dickens’ novel, The Greatest Gift is renowned around the world for its film adaptation. If you’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life—which everyone should—you’ll know the general plot of the short story. However, it is still worth reading during this season, especially to compare to the film version.
If your students enjoy It’s A Wonderful Life, they might also appreciate learning why the film is so popular by taking our Filmmaking from the First Directors class.
15. Silent Night: The Story of the WWI Christmas Truce by Stanley Weintraub
Unlike the other books listed, Silent Night is a re-telling of a famed historical event during World War I. Weintraub collected photographs and first hand accounts to help pull together the beautiful story of enemies coming together to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Like the Lois Lenski stories, this historical story is a wonderful addition to Dave Raymond’s Modern World History class.
16. The Legend of Old Befana: An Italian Christmas Story
Every culture passes down advent stories about the Nativity, the shepherds, and the Wise Men. This is an Italian legend retold by the beloved children’s author and illustrator, Tommie de Paola, about an old woman who interacts with the Magi as they travel to see the baby Jesus.
17. The Story of the Other Wise Man
A Henry Van Dyke short story, the other Wise Man is unable to make the journey to Bethlehem even though he has sold everything to buy three valuable jewels for the baby. He spends the rest of his life and his three jewels searching for Christ and is finally rewarded in a moving ending that beautifully captures the true meaning of Christmas.