Pre-Advent Prep: The Books

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One of my favorite Advent traditions involves our giant stack of Advent and Christmas books.  I individually wrap all our books for this season, putting a date on the outside to coordinate with any appropriate feast.  Each day one of the kids opens a present.  A present that didn’t cost anything!

We have enough books for every day of the Advent and Christmas season.  Some are treasures that we read over and over.  Others are just fillers– technically about Christmas, but not very interesting or inspiring.  I’ve included our most-loved titles.

Doing the planning ahead of time helps me not to accidentally skip some of our special traditions.  Getting the books ready is my first step to preparing for Christmas before Advent begins.  (You can read about our crazy November prepping here.)


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The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey
Beginning of Advent

After losing his beloved nativity set, a little boy enlists the help of a crabby woodcarver to make a new one.  Both of them are changed in the process that’s truly miraculous.

Make it a celebration:  Put up the family nativity set.



The Small One
A worthless donkey becomes great when he is adopted by Joseph to carry Mary.  The story ends with Joseph and Mary leaving for Bethlehem, so it’s perfect for anytime during Advent.




Marta and the Manger Straw

Though this story from Poland works for both the Advent and Christmas season, I like to use it early in Advent so we can read it over and over leading up to Christmas.  This title helps me meet my goal of exposing my children to books with ordinary kids acting with extraordinary virtue.

Make it a celebration:  Practice hospitality and invite another family over for dinner.





Saint Nicholas:  The story of the real Santa Claus
December 6th (Feast of St. Nicholas)

This gentle story of the generosity of St. Nicholas is perfect for marking the feast.

Make it a celebration:  Pick up some chocolate gold coins and leave them in the kids’ shoes.  Or get some chocolate santas and turn them into bishops with little triangles of paper.



Chocolate St. Nicholases are a favorite tradition!



The Miracle of Saint Nicholas

The people of Russia have been forced to hide any traces of religion.  A little boy starts asking questions which lead to a miracle at their local parish– St. Nicholas.





Too Many Tamales

Hilarity ensues when Maria thinks she lost her mother’s wedding ring in a batch of tamales.  I especially like that Maria ultimately tries to tell the truth, and her mother shows her mercy after she does wrong.




The Lady of Guadalupe
December 9 (Feast of St. Juan Diego)

Until we acquired The Beautiful Lady, this used to be our book for December 12th.  Since it goes more in-depth into the life of St. Juan Diego, we moved it to his feast day.

Make it a celebration:  Buy fresh roses for the table and eat Mexican food for dinner.




The Beautiful Lady:  Our Lady of Guadalupe
December 12th (Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

A sweet retelling of the story of Juan Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe by a grandma to her grandaughter.

Make it a celebration:  I like that I have a second chance to buy fresh roses for the table and eat Mexican food for dinner if I can’t get it together on the 9th.




Lucia Saint of Light
December 13th (Feast of St. Lucy)

Shows how a modern day family marks the feast of St. Lucy as well as the history behind who St. Lucy is.  The author does a nice job of explaining how this Italian saint became a Swedish patron.

Make it a celebration:  Bake (or buy) bread and bring it to friends and relatives.  Drive around to look at Christmas lights.




The Tale of Three Trees

The theme of vocation– doing what you are meant to do– complements the underlying story of Jesus’ time on Earth.







The Legend of the Poinsettia
Last Week of Advent

This is one of our all time favorite Tomie DePaola books, and that’s saying a lot, because we’re big fans.  I especially like how Catholicism is depicted in such a natural, subtle way.





The Night of Las Posadas
Last Week of Advent

Just like in The Legend of the Poinsettia, Tomie DePaola draws on the rich traditions from Mexico in telling this story.

Make it a celebration:  Do a “play” as a family of Joseph and Mary finding shelter on Christmas Eve.


Stephen’s Feast
December 26 (Feast of St. Stephen)

This book tells the story of the Christmas carol Good King Wenceslas.  The theme of generosity is perfect for the day after Christmas.





The Clown of God
Christmas Season

Even a poor, old clown has a gift worthy of the Christ child!





The Little Match Girl

December 31st

Spoiler:  The Little Match Girl dies at the end.  It is profoundly sad, but Hans Christian Andersen’s story of poverty and hope is one I want my kids to know.

Make it a celebration:  Donate food, clothes, and old toys.  This is easier for kids since they’ve just gotten new things for Christmas.



The Donkey’s Dream
January 1 (Feast of Mary, the Mother of God)

As he carries The Virgin Mary to Bethlehem, a donkey has visions that he is carrying a ship, a fountain, and a rose.  Ultimately we see that these are all symbols of Jesus’ mother.






The Gift of the Magi
January 5th or 7th (around Epiphany)

Due to its length this book is most enjoyed by older children, but the illustrations are stunning.  The story of sacrifice and love is one we can all benefit from hearing!




The Legend of Old Befana
January 6th (Epiphany)

We enjoy this Italian legend about how a grumpy old woman came to bring gifts to all children on the feast of the Epiphany.

Make it a celebration:  Finally move the wise men in the nativity set to the stable in a procession while singing “We Three Kings.”  Make a bundt cake and decorate it like a crown in honor of the “three kings.”


I did mention a few more awesome Christmas books in The Year of Mercy in Picture Books post, but some of those we don’t actually own.  (#1 on the mercy list is definitely on my “to buy” list.  What a great read!)


I’m always looking to acquire more books so we can replace some of our “fillers” with more lovely reads, so please let me know if I’ve missed your favorite.  🙂


For more posts on how to keep the season, visit the Keeping Advent, Advent blog hop.


  1. // Reply

    These are great! And thanks for the ideas to go along with them!

    1. // Reply

      Thanks! I’d love to hear your favorites. 🙂

  2. // Reply

    These books are FANTASTIC!!! I want to order or at least find some of them in the library. I LOVE the first one and I never heard of it. I remember the legend of the poinsetta, but I am not sure I ever read it to our son. Seriously – great list!

    1. // Reply

      Hope you can find some at the library. They make liturgical living so easy for us. 🙂

  3. // Reply

    The Legend of the Pointsettia and The Clown of God make me tear up when I read them aloud!

    1. // Reply

      Right!?!? I might as well have called this list “Seasonal Books That Make Me Sob.” I want to get “An Orange for Frankie” for this year yet. It’s another guaranteed tear-jerker. 🙂

  4. // Reply

    I still need to look ahead and actually organize our books! Although I might outsource that to John Paul, honestly… Hand him a calendar and some post-its and I think he’ll do it for me happily!

    1. // Reply

      Looking forward to more outsourcing as the kiddos get older! 🙂

  5. // Reply

    What a great book list! I’m excited just looking at them. We picked up The Little Match Girl from the library discards just yesterday.

  6. // Reply

    What a fantastic list of books!! I will need to figure out what we want to add this year (I try to buy one theme-appropriate book each Advent/Christmas)!

  7. // Reply

    Ohhh, I love it. Thank you for visiting my post on Christmas books. Many of these are new to me as well. Is it a bad thing I want all of them? 😀 Ha ha! 🙂

    1. // Reply

      Right now I think you can get $5 off any $15 printed book purchase on Amazon when you use coupon code GIFTBOOK at checkout.

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