This year many readers are clinging to the comforts of home and making plans for a cozy holiday season, and with that in mind, today I’m sharing a tried and true family plan for early winter.
Through my kids’ childhoods, we’ve tried various Christmas countdowns—Advent calendars and Jesse trees and the like—that just never 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 then we landed on a tradition that we all came to look forward to (even me!) and that is our literary Advent calendar.
We do books around here. Our whole family loves to read. Stories are already built into our family’s rhythm, so we wrap a gigantic pile of Christmas and winter-themed books (most of which we already owned) and stack them by the fireplace. Beginning December 1, we unwrap one every night, until Christmas Day.
It’s a bookish way of counting down to Christmas.
There are several ways to do this. You could rotate who gets to choose a book from the pile each night. Or you could label the books with numbers 1 through 25, and take turns opening the books. Even as our kids get older, this continues to be a beloved family tradition. It’s certainly one of my favorites.
Because you’re in charge of the books here, this countdown can work for a variety of ages and stages. (And don’t discount the nostalgia factor for when an older child opens a beloved winter book they loved as a wee one!)
Right now my own family is looking ahead to Christmas, but this same bookish countdown format can work for a variety of holidays and special days. You could count down to the new year, a birthday, the first day of spring—whatever strikes your fancy.
Hint: if you’re still building your collection, wrap some library books.
Here are some of our favorite holiday countdown books. I’d love to hear your favorites in the comments section!
• The Night Before the Night Before Christmas! by Richard Scarry
• The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
• Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel (for the story “Christmas Eve”)
• Joy to the World: Tomie de Paola’s Christmas Stories
• I Got the Christmas Spirit by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison
• The Twelve Days of Christmas by Jan Brett
• Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner
• ‘Twas Nochebuena: A Christmas Story in English and Spanish by Roseanne Greeenfield Thong and Sara Palacios
• How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
• The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola (more Epiphany than Christmas, but oh well)
• The Nutcracker in Harlem by T.E. McMorrow and James Ransome
Chapter books for the older kids:
Board books for the youngest kids:
New to our pile this year:
• Letters from Father Christmas by J.R.R. Tolkien
• Shadow and Light: A Journey into Advent by Tsh Oxenreider (such a pretty book cover)
• Watch for the Light: Readings for Advent and Christmas from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Annie Dillard, Madeleine L’Engle, and more
We’re always on the lookout for new titles: I’d love to hear your favorite Christmas book recommendations.
What are your favorite Christmas, holiday, and winter-themed books?
P.S. We’ve featured a variety of bookish and gift-ish posts lately, including:
• 15 of my favorite gifts to give and receive
• A bounty of beautiful bookmarks: 20 charming place-holders and page-markers for bookworms to gift and enjoy
• The MMD 2020 gift guide for book lovers