A New Advent Tradition That Might Actually Work For Our Family

A New Advent Tradition That Might Actually Work for Our Family

This year we’re trying a new Christmas tradition at my house.  At least I hope it will become a tradition.  We’ll see how it goes….

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

But our whole family loves to read–even the baby–and a nightly story is already part of the bedtime routine.  So this year, my husband and I wrapped a gigantic pile of Christmas books (most of which we already own) and we’re putting them under the tree tonight.  Starting December 1, we’ll unwrap one every night, until Christmas Day.  This will be our Christmas countdown.

The challenge with a literary countdown for my family is the range of ages:  the baby is one, but my oldest is nearly 9, so this list includes quite a few board books, but some chapter books, too.

I’m not crazy about every one of these books; there are definitely some I’d like to replace.  But we have 25 to open without shelling out tons of cash or clearing out the “holiday” section at the library, so I think we’re off to a good start.

What are your favorite Christmas books?  Which ones should I add to my list?


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  1. I LOVE this idea! Adding that to the “If we ever have kids” list of ideas, for sure! I grew up with stacks of Christmas books and I still have them all. Some of my favorites were:

    “The Littlest Angel” (http://www.amazon.com/Littlest-Angel-Charles-Tazewell/dp/0824955757/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1322656189&sr=8-1)

    “The Most Important Christmas” (which seems to be out of print, but Amazon has some through other sellers: http://www.amazon.com/Most-Important-Christmas-James-Nelesen/dp/0570041104/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322656254&sr=1-1)

    And a new favorite is “The Jolly Christmas Postman” (http://www.amazon.com/Jolly-Christmas-Postman-Allan-Ahlberg/dp/0316127159/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1322656316&sr=1-1)

    I’ve always loved “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” – good stuff!

  2. Cindy says:

    I love this idea. Our kids are teenagers (and would only roll their eyes at this) so maybe with the next kid. Definitely something to file away for later.

  3. I love this idea! The Gift Of The Magi is my fave — it’s actually free for kindles on amazon right now.

    We’ve been reading the Night Before Christmas to my 3 yo DS every night this week (by his request, but I’m happy to oblige). The only problem is all of the pictures of Santa and toys get him too hyped up before bed. I think we’ll switch to the Polar Express tonight!

    I don’t think I can pull this together this year, but I’ll have to keep it in mind for next year.

  4. Grace says:

    I love this idea! Here’s a couple more ideas for books. I bought these for my niece and nephew this Christmas. They are about K-1 level.
    On This Special Night by Simon Mendez
    The Christmas Baby by Marion Dane Bauer
    The Stable Where Jesus Was Born by Rhonda Gowler Greene
    Howard B. Wigglebottom and the Power of Giving: A Christmas Story by Howard Binkow

    • Rats! Hit Submit before I was done.

      I was going to say that one of my old favourite is the compilation of short stories “Christmas with Anne” by LM Montgomery. The publisher put together all of her short stories about the Christmas season into a book and I always like to dip into it a bit during the Christmas season – it would only be a read-aloud for a bit older children of course.

  5. Kate says:

    We’ve always enjoyed the book a night tradition during the Christmas season. There is a lovely set of Little Golden books that can help pad out the Christmas selection. I also second Carrie’s recommendation of the Littlest Angel, which always makes me cry, and the Jolly Christmas Postman, which is a lovely book with activities to go with most pages.

    Another tradition that we started last year and absolutely LOVE is listening to an episode of the 1930s radio show The Cinnamon Bear. It is an adventure story with Crazy Quilt Dragons and Looking Glass Mountains and a search for the missing Silver Star. We listen to an episode a night, finishing on Christmas Eve. You can find links all over the internet, but this site also has the original coloring book from the 1940s.


  6. sarah beals says:

    Love this idea. Will do a modified version this year, and jump in next year. Just reserved a bunch of books at our library. Will save money that way. I also like Great Joy by DiCamillo.

  7. Evie says:

    I LOVE this! I think I will copy. I have been feeling like we should do something advent-y since my boys are excited about Christmas this year, but don’t quite get it yet. (They think it is an object, as in “Look mama, there’s Christmas” when they see a tree or a Santa Clause). I think they’re even little enough that they won’t notice if I rewrap books and use them again, so I don’t need to find as many. Thanks for the great idea!!

  8. I LOVE THIS IDEA! hmmm… i wonder if i wrapped up all of the books i’ve been wanting to read, maybe i’d actually read them? and shut up about the lulu lemon store in louisville. definitely checking that out SOON.

  9. Hannah @ Lovely Woods says:

    Great idea. I know what you mean about needing to find a tradition that preserves your family’s sanity and simplicity.

    My recommendations are:
    Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo
    The Story of Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

  10. 'Becca says:

    I love “Woodrow Kennington Works Practically a Miracle” by Katherine Paterson, a hilarious short story about sibling rivalry and Christmas magic. Your younger kids might not appreciate it yet, but a 9-year-old would. You’d want to read it in advance to note the couple places where you’ll want to say “heck” instead vs. the place where they are actually talking about Hell. It’s in several different short story anthologies.

  11. Pingback: Advent Calendar Idea – Books! » One Full Turn
  12. MelD says:

    You and your older kids will love Jostein Gaarder’s Christmas Mystery if you want to keep the books down to a single one next year in Advent – the story is very clever and runs backwards into history at the same time as a small boy goes on a geographical journey from Norway to Bethlehem following a lamb with a bell round its neck, with a chapter a day for 24 days. My girls loved this and demanded it year after year…

  13. Beth says:

    Okay, I know this post is really old, but you just linked to it on Pinterest, and I have to tell you about “Christmas Day in the Morning” by Pearl S. Buck. I read it last year for the first time and it was beautiful!

  14. Patricia says:

    Any of Patricia Polacco’s many holiday books. The Tree of the Dancing Goats is one of my favorites. I used to read many, many of them to my elementary school classes each year. So full of compassion and the true Christmas spirit with multicultural and spiritual elements.

  15. Elodie says:


    Reminds me of every childhood Christmas squashing relations wherever they will fit in a too small house.


    Always been in our Christmas box,lovely illustrations and tied with a real bell.


    Going in our Christmas box this year. Check out the Sainsbury Christmas 2014 truce advert on YouTube which tells this story beautifully.

  16. Anne, I can’t believe it’s been five years since you originally posted this! Makes me realize how long I’ve been following you. I shared this post then with my daughter-in-love, and she’s been doing it ever since. I’ve enjoyed adding to the choices of Christmas books over the years.
    I was with their precious family last year the week before Christmas, and it was so fun to see a book unwrapped each night. And then so special to listen to my son reading a story to his three littles as part as their Advent traditions each evening. Thanks again for this delightful idea!

  17. Amanda says:

    I love this idea. I am doing this with my four year old and he loves picking a wrapped book to read each night. Thanks for the idea!

  18. Malgorzata says:

    P.D. James’ Christmas Mystery Stories, Rumpole’s Christmas, Poirot, Jeanette Winterson -12 Christmas Tales/Stories , I am sorry I am just giving you the parts of title I do remember off my head, right now. Good collecion of cozy Christmas Mysteries. Meave Binchy – This year will be different. Grumpy Old Women’s Christmas – book or DVD. The Nutcracker books and /or ballet DVD.

  19. Jessica says:

    And if this is too much for you, you could just get Advent Storybook b Antoine Schneider because it uses this same idea, but all in one book! All of the stories are short, so even if my teens groan about being forced to participate, it only takes a few minutes 😉

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