Here's what I posted last year about how it all works:
Though we're not "doing Santa" we still want our kids to experience the anticipation, excitement, wonder, awe, and use their imagination and creativity for this most special time of the year as we celebrate our Savior. I found a cute idea (and now, of course, I cannot recall where I found it. I just know that I aimlessly happened upon it...it was a stranger's blog. Yes. I'm guilty of being one of those creepy lurkers.) that I knew my kids would LOVE!
And since I can't find it, I will just have to show you mine. The inspiration...with a few of my own spins:
Gather 25 children's Christmas books.
And place them in a basket (that normally houses your library books) under your tree. Let the kids choose one book to unwrap and read each day in December.
But wait...there's more.
Designate the Christmas story for the "Do NOT open until Dec. 25" book. Yes, you can see through this paper. Charlie asked why I wrapped it like that. "Because we don't want this story to be kept a secret. It's the greatest story ever told. We want everyone to be able to know about it."
Okay...so now that you know how it works...here's a list of books that we have really enjoyed. I will try and give a brief summary or review of the ones that we've read so far and an * with denote if I think it's worth adding to your collection. I hope this serves to give you some sweet stories to share with your children, as it will also serve me when I am trying to plan our booklist for next December!
Disclaimer: Some of these re-tellings of the Christmas story are not completely accurate compared to Scripture. The following two mistakes are often made: 1. Mary and Joseph were not married (Luke 1:27) 2. The wise men came to see Jesus at the home of Mary and Jesus, not at the stable. (Matthew 2:11). Both of these mistakes happen often in the retelling of the real Christmas story, but I wanted to let you know that before purchasing, you may want to check into it if it bothers you, because I don't ALWAYS include that in my "reviews". This does not, often, bother me about most "Christmas books", I think it can be a great teaching moment to remind your children of the truth from Scripture. I just don't like it when a story claims to be "The Christmas Story" and it's not entirely truthful.
This is a cute, simple story where the "stable" animals are preparing for Jesus to come stay at their house. We have this in a boardbook, and is great for itty bitty ones to young children.
Rhonda Gowler Greene
This is a simplified version of the story of Christ's birth with beautiful pictures introducing the "stable characters" in repeating rhyme. I love that it is not too advanced for toddlers but still appealing for the parent that will read this over and over.
This is very similar to the book above, but I don't mind having both in my collection!
Each page adds a new line, with a key word represented by a picture. Once my kids saw each picture, they were able to recite the entire sentence and "read" along with me. They love this book because of that!
This is a sweet board book to add to your collection IF you are just starting this tradition as your family begins...like if this is your first or second baby or toddler and you plan on having more children, I would recommend it, but I'd pass if you youngest child is 3 or over. It is simple and sweet, but there are still other books that I'd rather add to my collection, or maybe you could see if your library had it?
This is similar to the three books above this on the list. (And my kids enjoyed it.) It is sweet, simple and makes a great read-aloud. I would recommend it over Christmas in the Manger because it had more depth, but I don't feel it's necessary to add all of these to your collection because of how similar they are to one another, unless you just find all of these for $1 or less.
Anne Vittur Kennedy
This is a GREAT book to have if you have little ones. It is a sweet, Christmas counting book with really cute illustrations. My kids love helping me count the items in each picture.
"Come see, Come out and see."
re-telling of the familiar Christmas story from Joseph's point of view and how we were constantly reminded to, "Fear Not," but to trust the Lord. I would definitely add this one to my collection later on, as my children grow older. This was a harder one (since it was longer) for McKlayne to stay interested in, but Asher was engaged most of the time.
We got this book from our library. The illustrations are beautiful but I wasn't too impressed with the story told from the animal's viewpoint. It is based on the Carol of the Friendly Beasts. My kids happen to know if since they have a Veggie Tales Christmas CD with it on there, but they didn't seem to make the connection. I don't remember them ever mentioning Jesus or who He is. This, again, would just be supplemental and I would only check this one out again if I needed a filler book.
The storytelling was a little bit cheese are the author lays on the adjectives a little thick but my kids didn't seem to notice. We enjoyed this story and I would add this to my collection BUT would not pay full price for this book. I have no idea how entirely accurate this is, since I have not researched my history of the Christmas tree :) but this "legend" definitely pointed to Christ and I appreciated that. (Great for young-older children...this held Asher's attention, but McKlayne was a little fidgety through this.)
I enjoyed this story much more than the one above. I loved the emphasis of Jesus in this book as it talks about how the colors of the candy cane symbolize his death and his purity through his death. We ate candy canes while reading this book, so McKlayne was much more still during this one, but I would say that it is also suitable for older children.
I REALLY like this book and would definitely add it to my collection (if I didn't already own it) as it is great for young to probably even older children. My kids ask to read this one over and over. An angel approaches four animals in Nazareth and asks them who of the four travelers they'd like to carry, warning them to choose wisely for one will carry the greatest of them all. The strongest animal chooses the brave soldier and all the way down until the donkey is left to choose Mary. It is a sweet story that I can't recommend enough!
Margaret Wise Brown
(This is an updated edition with new cover/illustrations...the original is very old.)
I normally love most of Brown's book and this was a cute one, but not compared to all the other ones to choose from to buy for your own collection. If you're familiar with The Big Red Barn, it reminded me a lot of that. Once again, this is one that we checked out from our library, so I would check it out again if we needed another book to fill in, but wouldn't spend my money on buying our own copy.
This book is obviously not any re-telling of the Christmas story, but I knew my kids would like it because they love Franklin books. And, I actually LOVED the message of this book! Franklin must decide which of his old toys is special enough to be given away to a child who may only receive one toy for Christmas. This would be a great book to use as a "prep" if you're cleaning out toys for a toy drive, etc. It can encourage much discussion on thinking of the least of these and loving others, if you take the opportunity.
I love this book, told from the lowly Shepherd's perspective of how Angels could have appeared to kings, nobles, religious leaders, or rabbi's-but God had chosen to reveal such news to humble, uneducated, commoners. This book is great for young-older children...not itty bitties, but if you see it for a good price, I'd grab it and save it...it's that good...and it won't be long before your itty bitty is BIG!
That's all for now...I will continue to update this list as we unwrap more books! Happy reading! And, feel free to chime in with any good book recommendations!