Wrap up 24 Christmas-y books then unwrap and read one a day during Advent.
All you need to do is collect* and wrap up 24 Christmas books and number them 1—24. Open one a day and share together.
I found seven Christmas books for £5.80 in three of my local charity/ secondhand book shops, so you could easily get 24 for not a lot more.
I’ve been doing this for about seven years and each year I get a few more books and swap out some of the ones for younger children. It’s a fun way of celebrating Advent, giving us a different book to read each day. In fact, last year, I had so many, I gave a set of 24 books to a friend with younger children.
The books in the list below aren’t all the Bible Christmas story, as I don’t think I could cope with 24 retellings! And we read the story from the Bible each day anyway. Last year, we also read The Christmas Mystery (which I love) so I’m wondering whether to read it again this year or go for A Christmas Carol.
I started this tradition when my girls were two and three and so part of the fun was them using a calendar to find out the date and then find the book with that number on it. As the years have gone by, I’ve adapted it a bit. Currently, I use Christmas cloth to wrap the books which is much quicker to wrap than paper and re-use the cloth each year.
Alternatively, you could get a book and read a chapter each day. I have written reviews on the following books which would all work well to read a chapter a day. The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder (author of Sophie’s World). I have read it each year, as it has 24 chapters, each building on the last, revealing a beautiful story of discovering the Christmas story. The Promise of Light by Katy Morgan is another good book that would work reading a chapter a day, and there is even one to read on the 25th Christmas day!
Another alternative is a daily devotional to read each day. The Adventure of Christmas by Ed Drew has short but meaningful daily Advent devotionals with a picture for each day and something for all ages – from under-fives to adults!
*Collect, i.e. you don’t have to buy 24 new books! Use ones you’ve already got, look in charity shops and ask families with children a bit older than yours if they have any they’d like to pass down. I’d recommend buying at least a few new ones, partly because there are so many luscious Christmas books about. In my list below, I’ve focused on ones which have the Christmas story in, but you could include winter books and non-nativity based Christmas books too. I’ve also included some children’s Bibles which you could wrap up and bookmark the Christmas story in them. This is a great way to show that the Christmas story is in the Bible and is part of God’s big story.
Here are my 24 (current) favourite Christmas books:
Apologies for the number of Amazon links but many of the other bookshops change their product pages too often for me to keep up.
1 The Story of Christmas storybook set is a big book design with 25 mini books inside it, one for each day of Advent. It’s a great investment, and our girls are looking forward to using it for the third time this year. Each mini-book tells the next part of the Christmas story and has a loop for hanging them on your tree or elsewhere, if, like us, you don’t get your tree up until later in the month.
For very young children
2 The Christmas Bible Storybook is a much-loved board book, featuring the delightful Bible friends ‘puppets’. When my children were under 5, this one stayed out all year as they loved it. And it links in with the Big Bible Storybook which leads to more Bible story-sharing.
3 The Christmas Star by Sam Childs is a board book with lovely silver and gold embossing on each page.
4 Touchy-feely Nativity is an Usbourne board book with lots of things to touch and feel – perfect for tiny children.
For young children
5 Bethlehem Town by Andrew McDonough, Lost Sheep Books is a NEW book out this year and it’s really very good! It’s got bright, colourful pictures and well-rhyming text, and it described the birth of Jesus taking place in a house, which from what I’ve read elsewhere, is more likely than a stable. The book describes this in detail using pictures. It would even make good storytelling as part of an event, and online there are loads of additional materials to go with it. See a full review here.
6 Jesus was a Refugee is another NEW book by McDonough, telling the story of Jesus’ birth from the wise men’s visit to Jesus’ return to Nazareth, including their escape to Egypt as refugees. It’s told in the first person, as if Jesus is writing about His life, and gives a great perspective of what it might have been like for Mary and Joseph and Jesus during that time. Since it’s aimed at young children, it doesn’t mention Herod killing all the baby boys but says that Herod wants to kill Jesus, which I think is enough for young children. After all, as a parent, I can add more details but I can’t remove things from the book. A brilliant book that helps us develop an understanding of Jesus taking on human form and suffering even as we do. More here.
7 The Legend of Saint Nicholas by Anselm Grun is a beautifully illustrated book which describes the life of Saint Nicholas, and without debunking Father Christmas, let’s us know that this is where this tradition came from.
8 This lovely set of 8 Bauble Books tell the story from the perspective of 8 different characters and can be hung on the tree or on a line of pegs after reading. For only £7.50, this is a good deal!
9 The Story of the Nativity by Elena Pasquali has a lovely re-telling of the story
10 Christmas Family Time from Messy Church, published by BRF, is a small activity book which also tells the Christmas story. Simple but fun, it would be worth having in your bag with a pencil to work through together in various queues during December.
11 The Christmas Promise has stunning illustrations and focuses on the meaning and purpose of Jesus’ coming
12 The night Jesus was born is a hardback book with a press-out tree ornament linked with each page of the story.
For older children
13 The Bible Atlas by Brian Delf makes the perfect non-fiction addition to our bookshelf at Christmas. While the birth of Jesus is only on one page, this book is a fab way for us to link the birth of Jesus with His life and work as well as the Old Testament stories through pictures and geography, helping us see themes and connections we might otherwise miss. Also great for people who would rather read non-fiction of course.
14 The Best Present Ever is a resource aimed at 8-11 and 5-7 year-olds explaining the gift of Christmas for children who may not have heard the Christmas story before.
15 The Glorious Impossible by Madeleine L’Engle is a totally different type of Christmas book. It has a beautifully written and Biblically faithful story coupled with elegant classical illustrations which are frescos by Giotto from the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, and it starts with the birth of Christ but also moves into His life. The combination is stunning, a wonderful book to share as a family, or use as part of a session with adults or children who are familiar with the story. NB This is quite pricey but is much cheaper out of season, so put it in your basket and invest in the spring if you can’t afford it now.
16 Diary of a Disciple is a mini book with the first 3 chapters of the full-size book (which is the whole gospel of Luke in the style of Tom Yates). It includes the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke (ie shepherds but not wise men).
17 A Christmas Journey by Susie Poole includes the story of the garden of Eden and the birth of John the Baptist as a way of highlighting the purpose of Jesus’ birth with stunningly beautiful illustrations. A fave.
20 The Best Christmas Present in the World doesn’t feature the nativity story, but is the moving story of soldiers playing football in no man’s land on Christmas day told by Michael Morpurgo.
21 The Big Bible Storybook has 11 pages devoted to the Christmas story, and will help young children know the story is from the Bible and that there’s more to the story! Also available as an unabridged audio version.
22 Children of God Storybook Bible, one of my favourite children’s Bibles, features 6 pages of the Christmas story retold by Desmond Tutu and has a wonderful range of dramatic artwork.
23 Treasures of the Snow by Patricia St John is a fabulous book, which includes the story of Christmas as experienced by two children who live in the Alps, as well as a dramatic and moving story of discovering God’s life-changing forgiveness.
24 I’ve already mentioned it, but it’s worth another quick mention: The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder is a delight-filled book, a mystery with short chapters for bedtime and great cliffhangers. In it, we move through geography and through time to eventually arrive at the birthplace of Jesus at the time He is born. It’s really quite magical.
And for adults
The fabulous Oriel’s Diary is the story of Jesus’ life through the eyes of an archangel, which gives an inspiring and original perspective on the Christmas story. Also available on Kindle. I read this each year, as it really brings the story to life in a brilliant and inspiring way.
For more ideas and Activities to explore at Christmas visit my 50 Faith at home ideas for Christmas here.