The Complete Guide to Creating a Christmas Book Advent Calendar
Learn how to make a Christmas Book Advent Calendar for your family and start a powerful new tradition to turn your children’s hearts to Jesus!
Christmas is a wonderful time of year, and it’s not just one day either. We can enjoy the entire season.
During the month of December, we have the opportunity to intentionally prepare our hearts for worship. Advent is the four+ weeks leading up to Christmas. (Technically it begins four Sundays prior to Christmas day). This time reminds us of what our Savior has done for us and directs our hearts to the hope of his second coming.
The Christmas season is a time for joy, gratitude, and most of all, worship.
Advent was not something I celebrated in an intentional way growing up, although there was an element of preparation as our Sunday School lessons turned toward the coming and birth of Christmas for the weeks leading up to Christmas Day. However, this has become an even more special time of year as I have continued developing traditions with my family –one filled with awe in what God has done for me.
Another beautiful thing about Christmas is that kids relate to it very well. Between the special music, the lights, the Christmas trees, the gifts exchanged, the beautiful nativities– the opportunities to reflect and ingest God’s truths are everywhere should we take the time to point their little hearts back to Him.
For that reason, I think Christmas is the perfect time to show our children just how much Christ matters to us and to pass along the legacy of worship and awe at Christmastime through a full-bodied Advent celebration.
There are so many fun ways to do this!
And as a blessed byproduct, we strengthen family bonds and pour into relationships as we set aside time together and shape our family culture and traditions through Advent.
This year, I want to share a brand new tradition my family is starting. I first saw this idea following @themoneysavingmom on Instagram last year, and I “instantly” knew I wanted to do it. Reading aloud is already one of my favorite things to do with my children, and it is truly and uniquely powerful in building bonds and creating shared experiences.
It’s called a Christmas Book Advent Calendar, and I’m going to give you all the info so you can do it too!
How to create a Christmas Book Advent Calendar for your family
The process is simple and easy!
- Gather together a set of Christmas-themed books (I love to primarily use Christian books, although I do throw in a couple of fun cultural stories as well, such as “The Night Before Christmas”). Twenty-four books would take you from December 1st through the 24th.
- Wrap the books and place them under your Christmas tree.
- Unwrap one book each day as a family and read it together!
It may be a good move to number the gifts and then open them in order. This allows the parent to assign longer books to nights when you know you will have more time and shorter books to nights that will be more rushed. You can also evenly mix in different types of books, such as evenly intermingling “just for fun” Christmas reads with Christ-centered and worshipful Christmas reads.
This year, I’ve decided to let my children take turns choosing one each night, so I did not number the gifts. My kids enjoy the thrill of taking turns choosing the present to unwrap.
We unwrap and read our daily book at bedtime, in pajamas, snuggled up on the couch by the Christmas tree. It is a sweet way to end our day as a family! It’s amazing how much more special their books become when I wrap them! 🙂
We all enjoy this very much.
My Book Advent Calendar Picks
My Absolute Favorite Christ-Themed Christmas Advent Books
Because my mission is to help my children reflect and worship during the holiday season, Christ-themed books are my ABSOLUTE favorite. These are the ones I love the most.
- The Bible— Be sure to wrap up a Bible and read Luke 2 together as a family!
- Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilsom– I’ll confess. I sometimes get a bit choked up reading the end of this sweet picture book. It’s about a mouse named Mortimer who wants to live in a nativity set. Along the way, he hears the story of Jesus and comes to understand some things about God and to love Him. In the end, God provides a home for Mortimer. It is a sweet (and different) perspective on a Christmas story.
- Room for a Little One by Martin Waddell– This is a beautifully illustrated, simply written telling of the nativity story from the perspective of kind and welcoming animals.
- The Tale of Three Trees by Angela Elwell Hunt– This book is so powerful. It is about three trees who dream of doing big things. They are disappointed when they are chopped down and turned into a manger, a small boat, and a beam. But it turns out God uses them to do so much more than they originally hoped. This one is another tear-jerker for me. It’s just so powerful.
- The Christmas Story for Children by Max Lucado– This beautifully written and illustrated retelling of the Christmas story emphasizes the message that we are loved and cherished by God, which is the most important message we can invest in our young children’s lives!
- Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones– When Christ was born, creation trembled and cried out in worship and celebration. This picture book conveys the weight, holiness, and power of that moment from this perspective.
- The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg– In the context of a story, children learn the meaning of the candy cane. Hint: it was created to point us back to Jesus!
- The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones– My children and I just finished going through this children’s Bible again, and I just love it. It has a beautiful telling of the Christmas story that is perfect for a Christmas Book Advent Calendar.
Other Great Christmas Advent Books
- Why Do We Call it Christmas? by Phil Vischer– I learned so much from reading this book to my children! It explains how we got Christmas, why it’s called that, and how we came to celebrate Jesus and Santa Clause on the same day from a historical perspective.
- The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston– This is a powerfully told story about a father gone at war, provision, and a Christmas miracle.
- The Story of Christmas by Patricia A. Pingry– I love this simple Christmas board book for little ones. It specifically explains why we give gifts to each other at Christmastime!
- The Crippled Lamb by Max Lucado– This precious story is about a lamb who felt left out because he couldn’t run and play. As it turned out, God has a very special plan for him that unfolded on the night Christ was born.
- God Gave Us Christmas by Lisa Tawn Bergren– A curious young polar bear begins to wonder who invested Christmas and whether Santa or Jesus are more important. He goes on a polar expedition with his mother to find answers to his questions, and along the way he learns about the true meaning of Christmas and just how much God loves him.
- Berenstain Bears The Joy of Giving by Jan Berenstain– Brother and Sister Bear learn that the joy of Christmas is not in the gifts they will receive, but in those they give.
- The Gift of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall– This book tells the legend of the Christmas Cookie, which explains why we exchange cookies at Christmastime. The original reason? To share the story of Jesus!
- The Legend of St. Nicholas: A Story of Christmas Giving by Dandi Daley Mackall– I love the true story of St. Nicholas. He was a Christian who gave sacrificially and secretly to those in need. It is the perfect story to invest into our children’s lives as they are surrounded by “Santa” this time of year.
Favorite “Just for Fun” Christmas Books
- The Story of Holly & Ivy by Rumer Godden– This is a sweet story about an orphan who finds a family and a doll who finds a girl on Christmas. It takes about 45 minutes to read aloud, but my daughter loves it.
- There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! by Lucille Colandro– This one is just completely for fun. My kids and I enjoy reading this sing-song book based on the “There Was an Old Woman who Swallowed a Fly” song.
- The Night Before Christmas— Even though we have decided against convincing our children that Santa is real (read why we made this decision here), The Night Before Christmas remains a culturally significant and well-done piece of literature. We enjoy reading it together.
- I Spy Christmas by Jean Marzollo– This is a fun book to mix things up a bit. Instead of reading a story, we can play Christmas I Spy together!
And Idea for Older Children
My children are ages 2-6 years old, so chapter books would not hold their attention, especially my two year old.
However, if your children are older, I love Trina Holden’s suggestion to wrap up chapter books that contain a chapter about Christmas. You can read just that one chapter. She has a guide to all the Christmas-themed chapter in the Little House on the Prairie series. Get more books suggestions and find out the Christmas-related chapters on her website here.
- Little House in the Big Woods— This book describes the joy of a simple Christmas on the frontier in the early 1870’s, complete with family, traditions and homemade gifts!
- Little House on the Prairie— Mr Edwards, a neighbor on the prairie goes to great (and sacrificial) lengths to make sure the Ingalls girls have their Christmas gifts by Christmas Eve. He spins an elaborate tale of how he met Santa Claus on the streets of Independence and was entrusted with the errand of bringing the gifts to the girls.
- Farmer Boy— A historic account of young Almanzo’s late 1800’s Christmas experience on a New York farm.
- On the Banks of Plum Creek— This is the amazing true story of how Pa’s life was spared all because he bought a fur coat in town (along with Christmas candy). On the long journey home he was caught in a blizzard and found refuge in a cave, holed up only a few hundred yards from his home, with no idea.
These chapters are historically accurate and fun to read, they also highlight the beauty of simplicity and gratitude.
How to get books for your Christmas Book Advent Calendar without breaking the bank
Remember, You Set the Schedule
Another great thing about the Christmas Book Advent Calendar is that you get to decide how many days it runs.
While Advent traditionally starts four Sundays before Christmas (or December 3rd this year), that tradition is not the boss of you. If you already happen to have ten Christmas books in your home, you can wrap those and begin your Advent countdown 10 days before Christmas!
Start with What You Already Have
For our Christmas Book Advent Calendar, I started with the Christmas books we already had. These included gifts my children had received and books that my husband and I had from childhood. When my mom heard about my idea, she scoured her house for Christmas children’s books that were not being used and sent them home with me, another 5 books. Without spending any money at all, I suddenly had a collection of 17 books.
Go on a hunt. You might find more than you expect.
We have the opportunity to build our collections slowly. This is what I chose to do. I will add 2 or 3 each year until I have a full set. This year I chose three new books on Amazon and ordered them! I am content with that for this year. Over time we will fill, hone, and refine our Book Advent Calendar collection, but there is no rush.
The exact number is not what’s important so much as the ritual, time together, and focus put on Christ.
Don’t forget to peruse your local consignment or thrift stores! Many of them save Christmas-themed items all year to put out at this time.
Use the Library
When I check out books at my library, I am able to request an extension when I check them out. Instead of 2 weeks, the library will manually check books out to me for 8 weeks, no renewals required. This allows plenty of time to celebrate Advent with fun, never-before-seen books without spending any money.
You may be able to do likewise, check with your librarian!
Remember, It’s Reusable
One great thing about the Christmas Book Advent Calendar tradition is that once it’s set up, you can reuse it year after year (maybe swapping out some books as your children outgrow them). I pack away my children’s Christmas books throughout the year so they will be more special around Christmastime.
Please tell me, what are your favorite children’s books to include in a Christmas Book Advent Calendar?
I would love to send you my Guide to a Simple, Christ-Centered Christmas!
As you can tell, Christmas is extremely important to me. It’s important that we celebrate it well, focused on Christ, and in a way that cultivates gratitude, joy, and worship.
I’ve put a lot of thought into exactly what has helped us cultivate these attitudes the most at Christmastime, and I’ve created a free guide to help you get there too. Sign up for my mailing list here and get it delivered directly to your inbox along with weekly encouragement to set your heart and home on the things that matter most.
New to this community? Start here, friend.