Read Alouds for Teaching Holidays Around the World

The winter holiday season is a great time to incorporate social studies concepts by exploring culture and diversity around the world. Many students in America are exposed to a Christmas overload. They may develop a misconception that everyone everywhere celebrates the same way they do. Whether all of your students celebrate Christmas or you have a diverse group of students from a variety of cultures, it is equally important to teach students about differences among cultures and that there is no “default” for everyone. Read-alouds incorporating different holidays around the world are perfect for developing a sense of inclusion and diversity while exploring various cultures.

teacher with various books focused on teaching about holiday around the world with read alouds

My Favorite Diverse Winter Holidays Read Aloud Books

Please note: I selected books about Christmas and other holidays that are typically celebrated in December. This list does not include other cultural celebrations, such as Diwali and Lunar New Year, that are celebrated at other times, as I believe these holidays should be taught WHEN they occur.

Some of these books do include information about religion. Religion is an integral part of culture and should not be avoided. It is important for teachers to incorporate lessons, books, and resources that address many cultures, religions, and non-religions all year, rather than promote one religion as the norm.

The Nutcracker in Harlem by T. E. McMorrow

Take a trip to New York City during the Harlem Renaissance for the retelling of the classic, The Nutcracker, which incorporates Black characters.

Oskar and the Eight Blessings by Tanya Simon and Richard Simon

A refugee seeking sanctuary from the horrors of Kristallnacht, Oskar arrives by ship to New York City with only a photograph and an address for an aunt he has never met. It is both the seventh day of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, 1938. As Oskar walks the length of Manhattan, from the Battery to his new home in the north of the city, he experiences the city’s many holiday sights and encounters its various residents. Each offers Oskar a small act of kindness, welcoming him to the city and helping him on his way to a new life in the new world.

The Legend of Old Befana by Tomie dePaola

“In this beloved classic picture book, Tomie dePaola retells and illustrates an Italian Christmas folk tale, breathing warmth and humanity into the character of the lonely Old Befana and her endless search for the Christ Child.”-

If you are looking for activities to incorporate with this book, check out my resource based on this story here:

The Night of Las Posadas by Tomie dePaola

Take a trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico for the procession of Las Posadas, the tradition in which Mary and Joseph go from door to door seeking shelter at the inn on Christmas Eve. This year, Sister Angie, who is always in charge of the celebration, has to stay home with the flu, and Lupe and Roberto, who are to play Mary and Joseph, get caught in a snowstorm. But a man and a woman no one knows arrive in time to take their place in the procession and then mysteriously disappear at the end before they can be thanked. That night, we witness a Christian miracle, for when Sister Angie goes to the cathedral and kneels before the statue of Mary and Joseph, wet footprints from the snow lead up to the statue.

The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola

“This Mexican legend tells how the poinsettia came to be, through a little girl’s unselfish gift to the Christ Child.”

Teacher holding read aloud books about holidays in different cultures around the world

The Christmas Trolls by Jan Brett

Take a trip to Norway for Christmas! “Christmas is Treva’s favorite time of the year. But this year, decorations and presents are mysteriously disappearing. When Treva follows a small creature making off with the Christmas pudding, she discovers two irresistible trolls who want to have Christmas, but don’t understand it.”

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

Head to an African village to meet seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will; by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars. Using the Nguzo Saba, or “seven principles” of Kwanzaa, the author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together for their own good and the good of the entire community. 

Lucia Morning in Sweden by Ewa Rydaker

“In the busy house of the Svennson family, everyone is getting ready for the Swedish holiday of Lucia Day, December 13. The book tells the story of Santa Lucia through the eyes of three children in modern-day Sweden.”

Using Read Aloud Picture Books to Explore Diverse Holidays

Using read-aloud picture books is a great way to learn about different holidays and explore different cultures. I hope you and your students love these holiday books as much as I do!

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