Featured, Holiday, Living Books

Favorite Christmas Books that Stand the Test of Time

A Christmas books advent is a favorite part of our holiday tradition. 

I started when my boys were very young, and a number of the books have now been passed along as they have aged out of the stories, but a few remain as favorites.

I began by wrapping the Christmas books under the tree, but a few years ago made cloth bags to simplify the process. It makes the tree look happy in the long weeks before presents begin to pile up.

Here are some of the titles that still make the cut and few new ones we are adding.


The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston

I love this story based on the author’s own family.  The town of Spruce Pine, where the book is set, is nearby. The pictures by illustrator extraordinaire Barbara Cooney really help elevate this book to a Christmas classic.

The Christmas Humbugs by Colleen Monroe

I love this one because it has really beautiful illustrations and a catchy little rhyme. It tells the story of three Christmas “humbugs” that sneak into a house to test its Christmas spirit. They cause all kinds of mischief, but it all turns out well. The original book is out of print, but there is a Kindle edition and used copies for just a few dollars.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

The  Grinch never gets old. My kids can recite it and love the original show. We recently saw the new Grinch movie and while entertaining nothing can touch the original story.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever makes me cry every year. To me, it is the best retelling of the Christ story because it really helps you step back and like the characters see it all over again for the first time. When we get to the part with the canned ham, I just can’t help myself.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (Illus. PJ Lynch)

We have an abbreviated version by the author and illustrator of the Lemony Snicket stories (A Series of Unfortunate Events).  This one is good for a quick bedtime read, but a few years ago we invested the time in the original. It did not disappoint.  This version with P.J. Lynch’s gorgeous illustrations is worth it.

Drummer Boy by Loren Long

Loren Long wrote the popular book Toy Boat a few year’s back and this is his Christmas offering. My boys both list this among their favorites. It is a simple and slightly sad story that ends well. I think they like the rhythmic song of the drummer that is read throughout.

The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia Scarry

This scratch and sniff book is a treat especially for the little ones! I love the smell of gingerbread and fir tree. The smells have held up pretty well for nearly 10 years now! They say smell is the memory that stays with you the longest so this book will take them right back for years to come.

The Little Fir Tree by Margaret Wise Brown

This is a classic story from the author of Goodnight Moon, but we have the version with Jim LaMarche illustrations that modernize the tale a bit. A story of a little tree and how he becomes part of the family is a delight.

Angela and the Baby Jesus by Frank McCourt

This children’s version of Frank McCourt’s Christmas story from his biography simply must be read with an Irish brogue. It is funny and heartwarming and hits all the right notes for Christmas. It is on Kindle and used copies are available.


An Orange for Frankie by Patricia Polacco

We have only read this one once, but I am determined to track down a copy to add to our permanent collection. Based on a true story, the book about a boy’s choices and his family’s love will get you right in the heart.


Here are a few others that I have had recommended but I have not read yet. Leave me a comment and let me know your favorites.

Holly and Ivy by Rumer Godden

This has been on many best of Christmas lists. This version has the lovely Barbara Cooney illustrations. A newer version is available and easier to find. “A girl and a doll living in two different worlds both wanting the same thing…to be loved. Their wishes transcend the pages flowing back and forth setting the stage for their imminent meeting. But with the store closed and no money, how can their wishes ever come true?

The Christmas Tapestry by Patricia Polacco

Another Polacco favorite: “When a leak ruins the sacristy wall in his father’s church, Jonathan Jefferson Weeks thinks Christmas Eve service will be ruined. Luckily he and his father find a beautiful tapestry, perfect for covering the damaged wall and giving the church a festive look! But then, an old Jewish woman recognizes the beautiful cloth. Her discovery leads to a real miracle on Christmas Eve.”

The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke

“Though not mentioned by name in Scripture, all know the legend of Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior, whose gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the newborn king are heralded in carols. But what if another had missed the rendezvous and then spent years, searching for the source of the light?”

What are your favorite Christmas books?

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