A very bookish Christmas countdown.

A very bookish Christmas countdown.

In years past I’ve tried various Christmas countdowns—Advent calendars and Jesse trees and the like—that just haven’t clicked for our family.  The daily activity seemed like one more thing to get done instead of a meaningful way to prepare for Christmas.

But a few years ago we created an instant tradition: a literary Advent calendar.

We do books around here. Our whole family loves to do read. Stories are already built into our family’s rhythm. So each year, we wrap a gigantic pile of Christmas and winter-themed books (most of which we already own) and stack them by the fireplace. Beginning December 1, we’ll unwrap one every night, until Christmas Day.

It’s our family’s bookish way of counting down to Christmas.

A very bookish Christmas countdown | Modern Mrs Darcy

In years past we rotated which child got to choose a book from the pile each night. This year I’ve labeled them 1 through 25, and we’ll take turns opening the books instead. I’m front-loading the month with Silas’s favorite board books and the long chapter books the older kids (9 and 11) will want to be reading all December.

(Hint: if you’re still building your collection, wrap some library books.)

Here are some of the books I wrapped this year.

Family favorites: 

• Richard Scarry’s the Night Before the Night Before Christmas! by Richard Scarry
• The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
• Christmas Around the World: A Pop-Up Book
• Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel (for the story “Christmas Eve”)
• Joy to the World: Tomie de Paola’s Christmas Stories

A very bookish Christmas countdown | Modern Mrs Darcy

Picture books:

• The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett
• Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
• How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
• The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola (more Epiphany than Christmas, but oh well)

Chapter books for the older kids:

A very bookish Christmas countdown | Modern Mrs Darcy

Board books for the youngest kids: 

• The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore
• My First Christmas Board Book
• Who Is Coming to Our House? by Joseph Slate
• Biscuit’s Pet & Play Christmas by Alyssa Satin Capucilli

We’re always on the lookout for new titles: I’d love to hear your favorite Christmas book recommendations.

What are your favorite Christmas books? (Or: how do YOU count down to Christmas?)

book advent calendar

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112 comments

  1. Sara says:

    Santa Mouse by Michael Brown and Tale of the Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt. Both picture books. The first is obviously a Santa book. The second is a traditional folk tale with a Christian message.

  2. Julie Gravelin-Vari says:

    One of my very favorite books as a child (I now own a copy) is The Lion in the Box by Maurgerite De Angeli. A wonderful story with a great message about a poor family that is grateful for what they have but gets an amazing surprise at Christmas. I think I’ll reread it soon! I hope other people discover this lovely story.

  3. Debra G says:

    This is such a great idea! I have an Advent tree (kind of like a Jesse tree), but we read aloud every night anyway. We might as well make it Christmas books.

  4. Victoria says:

    I love this idea!!! When I was a teenager, my Mom worked really hard to shape our Christmas around the birth of Christ (she was saved when I was 11)…Advent became my favorite time of year! For several years, we read through Arnold Ytreeide’s books (Jotham’s Journey being the first). Even though they were aimed at younger audiences, we ALL enjoyed those books. My Mom had her work cut out for her as she tried to make advent special for two toddlers, my pre-teen brother, and myself. 🙂

    Speaking of Christmas reading, what are some Christmas themed books for adults?

  5. Jenny says:

    I have done this for since my oldest was a toddler, and he is now in in high school. It is one of our favorite traditions at Christmas. I collected Christmas books from used book stores through out the year until I have 25 books, one to open each day of Advent. My practical suggestion would be to wrap all of the Christmas books after Christmas is over, with left over wrapping paper, and pack them away with the Christmas decorations, ready to go for the next year. It doesn’t take that long, and my kids are now old enough to help me wrap them up. I’m so thankful when I open my Christmas boxes and see them ready to go!

    I would love to know some good Christmas books for adults to read! That has become a new Christmas tradition of mine. Any good Christmas books for adults?

  6. Karina says:

    I love reading what everyone’s favorites are for reading at Christmas. I love the idea of Advent reading as well and am definitely doing this, this year. Even when your children get older they still love to hear these stories read out loud to them. My youngest 4 are all boys and 11 – 16 years of age an yet I love how they love to listen…even when they pretend that they aren’t they always want to see the picture before the page is turned!
    Two of our Many favorites are:
    *The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story by Gloria Houston. A Story set during WWI.
    *Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco really any of her books are wonderful.
    Both of these make me choke up every single year!

  7. Carol Hinckley says:

    The best book I can recommend for kids of all ages is Mr Willoughby’s Christmas Tree. It’s one my library board member grandfather bought for me as a kid and my four kids have loved it just as much! I love this advent idea and my teens will as well I’m thinking/hoping! Happy thanksgiving!

  8. Joanna Richards Brauckmann says:

    My children are 5 and 2 and we love this tradition! My husband is German and I’m American so we each gathered titles from our childhood that we wanted to share with our kids and our collection keeps expanding. We try to read something in English and German each night and the German Pixie books (3″x3″, always 16 pages) make it manageable. We love Jan Brett stories and the 12 Days of Christmas pop up book by Saluda. It warms my heart to see my children pouring over the beautiful pictures and retelling the stories in their own words. Perhaps we can compare complete lists?

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