Whether your household celebrates Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or the Winter Solstice, Westlake Porter Public Library has an abundance of picture books for all of the winter holidays. Click on the book covers below to view the books in our digital catalog. I’ve also included some New Years Eve books at the end of this article, to help you prepare for 2024!
Sparkling green and red lights, tree ornaments, sugar cookies, wrapped presents, gingerbread houses… it’s Christmas time! There will never be a lack of Christmas picture books or stories, and our collection is no exception. Whether you practice religiously or secularly, these picture books are the perfect way to get your family into the spirit of Christmas- no matter the age! Also listed below are some similar holidays, celebrated on December 25th, revolving around the traditions of gift-giving and other Christmas traditions, across the globe. Merry Christmas!
Three Kings Day/Epiphany
A Christmas celebration taken place across the globe, on the day believed to be when the Three Kings/Wise Men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts in the Bible. Traditions for this day vary regionally, but the main overlapping event is the giving of gifts by the Three Kings- instead of Santa Claus.
This Latinx, Filipino, and Hispanic holiday takes place on Christmas Eve, celebrating all the usual Christmas festivities a day early, leaving Christmas Day as a day of rest and relaxation. Poinsettias are staple iconography in Nochebuena, as the Mexican word for poinsettia is flor de Nochebuena, named due to its’ natural bright red coloring around Christmas. Food selections vary region to region, some attend Catholic Mass; most families who celebrate, do so by breaking a piñata and giving gifts.
St. Nicholas Day
Did you know that the jolly old Santa Claus is based on a real person? Saint Nicholas is the Catholic patron saint of children, sailors, those affected by fires, and the poor; his generosity in life is honored in the activities of St. Nicholas Day. This version of Christmas is celebrated by Catholics across the globe, often associated with a feast or fasting, fantastical stories featuring St. Nicholas, and stuffing a piece of footwear (traditionally a boot or a dress shoe) with candies and toys. Krampus also plays a role in some St. Nicholas celebrations, bringing punishments and coal to naughty children, or so the legend goes; both entities share a part in the festivities!
Dreidels, latkes (fried potato pancakes), menorahs and prayer- the key elements of the Jewish “Festival of Lights”. This eight day celebration acts as a reminder of the reclaiming of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem by the Jews from the reigning Syrian-Greeks, re-dedication of the temple to God, and the burning of the last one-day supply of ritual olive oil in the temple’s menorah, which miraculously lasted eight days and eight nights. Spin the dreidel, eat some chocolate gelts (coins), and spend time with friends and family! Happy Hanukkah!
The most modern winter holiday in this list, Kwanzaa was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University in 1966. The holiday takes its roots from African harvest traditional celebrations, and each day during the celebration is dedicated to one of the seven principles, focusing on certain values of African culture and community among African-Americans. Kwanzaa is also spent celebrating with songs and dances, playing African drums, storytelling and poetry reading, and traditional meals. Sending warm wishes for a joyful Kwanzaa!
Celebrated on the longest night of the year- typically landing on December 21st or the 22nd- Winter Solstice is a pagan tradition honoring the sun and the halfway point of winter. Yule typically lands on the Winter Solstice, originally celebrated by Norse and Scandinavian peoples, and is the origin point of most of the imagery we associate with Christmas. Decorating evergreen trees, burning of the Yule log, mistletoe, holly, wreaths, gift-giving, and bells all come from the celebrations of Yule. The Winter Solstice marks a new beginning, a time for creativity and rebirth. Have a blessed Yule!
New Year’s Eve
One more party is in store before we say good-bye to 2023- New Year’s Eve! Cultures around the globe put their own twists on the last night of the year; Brazilians wear all white for good luck and peace, Danish people break dishware on their friends and family’s front step to detect how lucky and loved they will be in the next year, and Japanese Buddhist temple bells ring out 108 times leading to midnight, as a way to push out any earthly vices and start the new year on a clean slate. Here in the States, our New Year’s Eve traditions tend to revolve around watching the NYC Times Square ball drop, making New Year’s Resolutions, sipping on Champagne (sparkling apple juice, for the kids!), and of course, cheering out, “Happy New Year!”