You’re Going To Love Reading These Kids Books About Winter Traditions

we've got the best kids book about winter traditions

Winter traditions in the United States generally revolve around two major holidays: Christmas and Hannukah. Even with the melting pot that our country is, most of what you see around the country revolves around Christmas.

But the rest of the world has its own traditions centered around the winter solstice, Christmas, and other cultural traditions. Some of these traditions have made their way over to the United States with some slight changes and differences.

There are things in the United States that are so normal to us that we may not realize that most of the world does not have the same winter traditions. Many countries not only celebrate the major holidays, but they also have specific traditions that are centered around the season of winter whereas, in the United States, many of our winter traditions are centered around the holidays of Christmas and Hannukah.

Winter Traditions in the United States

Below are a few books that can help those that are not in the United States see some of the most common holiday and winter traditions. Many of these traditions center around the major holidays of the season but there are a few that focus on winter fun. They are also a great way to show how your children how our country celebrates the winter season.

1. Writing Letters to Santa

Writing a letter to Santa is a common winter tradition in the United States, but it’s not something that is done around the world. The tradition came about in 1871 when cartoonist Thomas Nast, who also drew the current image of Santa Claus in the United States with his jolly belly, red suit, and white beard, depicted Santa sitting at a desk writing letters and dividing them into two piles of “naughty” and “nice.” And then, in 1879, Nast drew Santa once again but this time with a child putting a letter in a U.S. mailbox addressed to the North Pole.

It wasn’t until the early 1900s that the United States Postal Service accepted letters addressed to Santa Claus. Before that, the letters would be sent back to senders. It wasn’t until 1913 that the US Postal Service (USPS) made it so children could use the mail system to send letters to Santa, and in 1989 the USPS gave Santa Claus his own zip code.

The Crayons Christmas

The beloved story of the box of crayons who once quit in The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Home are back for a tale of holiday cheer, traditions, and wishlists. In this story, the crayons, Duncan, and their families tell of how they celebrate the holidays, speaking to the different winter traditions of our country and within individual families. You can pull the notes that the crayons have written from their own envelopes, play games, and create an ornament with a pop-up tree, too.

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Letters to Santa

In this book you will be able to read over 250 real letters written by children from around the United States asking dear ol’ St. Nick what they would like for Christmas in exchange for “being good” this year. You will read about children asking for toys, snow, and to help the needy. They ask Santa about how he gets into chimney-less homes and they ask for very specific requests that will have you laughing. It is a great way to show children how people all over the United States, and sometimes the world, will write letters to Santa just like them.

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2. Building Snowmen

One of the most fun winter traditions in the United States and around the world. Frequently you will pass by homes with flocks of children and adults rolling large snowballs on snow days, or see snowmen standing in the front yard, even after all the snow around them has melted. This tradition is one that came from medieval times, with the first depiction of a snowman in recorded history coming about in a book called The Book of Hours in 1380. Many countries around the world would build snowmen as an expression of self or for political reasons. In the United States, the traditional three bulbous snowmen grew from a tradition that is still common in Switzerland where a snowman is seen as a more whimsical character.  The 1950 song, Frosty the Snowman, solidified the United States’ love of building snowmen in wintertime and it is now a beloved tradition here in the US.

Snowmen at Christmas

We all know what snowmen look like during the day. But what about at night? Snowmen at Night tells of all the adventures snowmen have at night when we aren’t watching. It not only talks about the jovial tradition of building snowmen with friends and neighbors, but it also talks about other traditions like holiday treats and Santa Claus.

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Snowmen Live Forever

We all love our snowmen during the winter, but when warmer weather arrives they disappear. Squirrel, Hedgehog, Rabbit, and Owl, after their friend the Snowman, disappears set off on an adventure to find their friend after they realize that the melted snow travels to the sea.

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RELATED: Top 10 Favorite Winter Books for Kids

3. Baking Holiday Cookies

Holiday cookies have been a winter tradition that, in the United States, is not limited to only those who celebrate Christmas or those who are non-Christian. The gingerbread cookie has become synonymous with winter over the centuries. In the 14th century, normal regulations around baking were loosened for the holiday season and winter solstice and people started baking cookies within their own homes. Eventually, gingerbread cookies were made into shapes to decorate trees. In the United States, cut-out cookies of different shapes and decorations are the norm and many exchange specially baked cookies for the holidays.

A World of Cookies for Santa

A World of Cookies for Santa takes readers across the world to see all the sweet treats that await Santa on Christmas Eve. You will get a good idea of the different traditions that cultures have around the world for holiday cookies in different countries, as well as some recipes at the end of the book to try them yourself.

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A Christmas Cookie Exchange

There are all types of Christmas cookies, but some are not as fancy as the others. This story tells of a plain oatmeal cookie and how he feels being next to the “fancier” cookies. But sometimes the classics are exactly what people want during the winter season. The story tells of love and acceptance, which are great qualities to remember during the holidays.

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4. Other Religious Holidays in the United States

Many of the winter traditions in the United States center around Christmas. Christians and non-Christians are often inundated with the US version of Santa, his reindeer, and Christmas trees. But the winter season also surrounds another popular holiday in the United States–Hannukah. Hannukah is a Jewish holiday that is celebrated in remembrance of the dedication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago. It is celebrated over eight nights and days, and observed by kindling the lights on a nine-branched candelabrum called a menorah. It is an important winter tradition for many families in the US, and the Jewish people have several different ways that they celebrate.

Shmelf the Hanukkah Elf

Shmelf is a list-checking elf, but one day he notices that many children have been good but that aren’t on Santa’s list. He decides to head south of the North Pole to figure out why and in turn, discovers the joys of Hannukah. He watches as a family lights the menorah, plays the dreidel game, and listens to the Hanukkah story and finds out that Santa has a special job for him. This is a great story to help children understand why some families don’t celebrate Christmas.

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Latke, the Lucky Dog

This cute story of a dog that is rescued from a shelter, learning the rules of his new home all while experiencing his first Hannukah ever. It is a cute story that explains the traditions of this holiday and the importance of it for his new family.

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RELATED: 10 Holiday Stories from Around the World 

5. Traditions Around the United States

Even around the United States, there are varying traditions based on location within the country. Many states have their own traditions like lighting Christmas trees in the state capital or special celebrations and events. The Santa is Coming to… series is a great way to learn all about the different things that different states and locations around the United States celebrate the winter and the holidays. There are also a series of different countries around the world.

Santa is Coming to…

Kids Books About Winter Traditions You Will Love Reading With Your Kids

Many of the United States’ winter traditions have been passed down from the traditions of other countries. Most of our traditions in the United States, especially those that stem around Christmas and the holidays, come from German traditions.  And some of these traditions take place in certain areas of the US, giving light to the fact that despite us being a single society, there are cultural differences even among areas of our country.

But there are some winter traditions that take place around the world that are unique to that country or culture. Here are some unique winter traditions from around the world and books you can read to your children to explain the diverse world in which we live.

The Feast of Juul

The Feast of Juul is what many of us know in the United States as the lighting of the Yule log at Christmas. However, in centuries past in Scandanavia, the Feast of Juul was a celebration of the Winter Solstice and a Juul log was lit to celebrate the light and life-giving heat of the sun and to honor the Scandanavian god, Thor.  The log is not allowed to burn completely and is kept as a token of good luck, then used as kindling to start the following year’s log. In other European countries, the Yule log is burned and the ashes are collected and spread into the fields as fertilizer every night until Twelfth Night.

Here are two books that celebrate this unique holiday:

The Twelve Days of Yule

The Yule Tomte and the Little Rabbits

RELATED: Fun Holiday Traditions to Do with Your Family This Year

Christmas Spiders

The story of Christmas spiders was started in Germany and Ukraine. It tells the story of spiders who were so excited to hear of Jesus’ birth that they ran around the trees, leaving their sparkling silver webs in the tree. This expanded into people hanging silver tinsel on trees, and today many hang a spider ornament in their tree for good luck.

Here are two books that celebrate this unique holiday:

A Christmas Spider’s Miracle

Cobweb Christmas


Yalda Night

In Iran, the Winter Solstice is celebrated during Yalda Night. It is considered one of the most important celebrations of the year. The word yalda means birth, and the festival is a celebration of new life after the longest and darkest night of the year. The Persian people believe that evil reigns the strongest on this night and they stay up together as a family to eat, drink, and enjoy stories and games together. Many enjoy watermelon and pomegranates which symbolize the cycle of life.

Here is a book that celebrates this unique holiday:

Yalda, What’s Going on With the Sun

The Story of Krampus

Krampus is the opposite of Santa. He is an evil being who only seeks out the naughty children. The story tells that Krampus will come and take the naughtiest children away in his sack. The story originated in Austria but is held as tradition in many eastern European countries. Now on the day of Krampus, people dress up as witches and devils to try and scare the “mean” out of people as they run through the streets.

Here are two books that celebrate this unique holiday:

Krampus: A Holiday Message

Goodnight, Krampus

Night of the Radishes

The Night of The Radishes, also known as Noche de los Rabanos, is a Mexican holiday that is celebrated mainly in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is a three-day festival, beginning on December 23rd, that includes carving vegetables, specifically oversized radishes, to look like the nativity and symbols from Mexican folklore. Farmers began carving radishes into figures as a gimmick to attract customers’ attention during the Christmas market. It later turned into a competition, and today attracts thousands of visitors who want to see the veggie creations.

Here is a book that celebrates this unique holiday:

Rosita and the Night of the Radishes

Pickles on a Christmas Tree

There are many stories from which this tradition originated. Many people say that it started in Germany with a yearly tradition known as weihnachtsgurke. In this version, a pickle ornament would be hidden in a tree and the child to find it first would get an extra gift. Some believe that it was actually started during the United States Civil War when Private John C. Lower was captured and taken prisoner. He was given a pickle on Christmas Eve which, in turn, saved his life.

Here are two books that celebrate this unique holiday:

The Christmas Pickle

Pickles the Dog, A Christmas Tradition

Three Kings Day

Three Kings Day, or the Epiphany, is celebrated on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas. It is celebrated as the day the Three Kings visited Jesus. In some countries, like Spain, this is the day children actually receive their gifts, as the Christ child also received His first gifts on this day.

Here are two books that celebrate this unique holiday:

If the Three Kings Didn’t Have their Camels


The Christmas Horse and the Three Wise Men


The Christmas Bonfires

This tradition takes place in a particular area of the United States but is said to have come from the traditions of the French and Creole people. On the levees that contain the Mississippi River, residents of New Orleans light 30 ft bonfires on Christmas eve. Called the Christmas Bonfires by locals, the fires are usually tee-pee shaped, but some people get more creative with shapes like steamboats. While the fires burn, families and friends visit and eat and mingle between the fires.

Here are is a book that celebrates this unique holiday:

The Legend of Papa Noel

The Yule Lads

In Iceland, Santa doesn’t come to visit the children. Instead, the Yule Lads visit each night for the 13 days leading up to Christmas. Children will place their shoes on a windowsill, and the Yule Lads will deliver gifts in the night. Each Yule Lad is a different character, and children will receive a gift based on this character’s theme in their shoes if they have been good. If a child hasn’t been good, they will receive rotten potatoes in their shoes instead.

Here are three books that celebrate this unique holiday:

The Legend of the Icelandic Yule Lads


The Icelandic Yule Lads: Mayhem at the North Pole

The Little Book of Icelanders at Christmas

The winter is a special time, and many of us around the world celebrate this time of year with traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some of the traditions change to fit with modern times, culture, and era but some stay the same. Share these stories with your children to see how people around the world celebrate the holidays and how some of the winter traditions have translated into how we celebrate in the United States.


Photo: Alena Ozerova/Shutterstock

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