Christmas Time, written and illustrated by Gail Gibbons
(1982, Holiday House)
This very basic nonfiction book gives an overview of why and how we celebrate Christmas and the Christian explanation of various symbols of the season for young children.
Each page of this book features older Gail Gibbons artwork and a couple of sentences explaining some aspect of Christmas. It begins with a simple explanation of the Christmas story. (The retelling mentions three shepherds and three wise men and that the wise men also came to the stable; Matthew tells that the wise men came to a house in Bethlehem, and scholars suggest it may have been up to two years after Jesus’ birth as the star appeared at his birth and they would have had far to travel. The number of wise men and shepherds is also never mentioned in the Bible. Anyone who feels strongly about sharing the specifics can easily explain that to their kids themselves, though; this year, I chose to wait until GirlChild was a little older to discuss it.) The book tells about the use of evergreens, lights and candles, the star, carols, Christmas church services, and giving gifts. Santa Claus is explained, and so are his origins as Saint Nicholas, but the book is perfectly suitable for both children who believe and don’t believe in Santa, depending on the emphasis and explanation parents put with the text (so don’t worry about this book ruining your children’s Christmas if Santa is real to them!). It ends with the lines: “Christmas Day is a time for presents. . .and families. . .and for enjoying a tasty meal. Christmas Day is a time for love, joy and peace.”
GirlChild’s Reaction: GirlChild doesn’t really believe in Santa Claus (we try to keep the emphasis on Jesus, and she’s still excited about everything Christmas related!), but she is still at that age where she’s a little unsure about fantasy and fact, and the straightforward way Santa is discussed made her say, “I guess Santa really IS real!” (It might also have been the fact that Saint Nicholas is described right after Santa is introduced and the legends about him used to explain a few Christmas traditions without directly saying he was the first “Santa Claus,” so she was connecting the historical figure with the North Pole Santa the book went on to discuss; we’ve talked about how Saint Nicholas was a real person before.) If you purposefully leave Santa out of your Christmas celebrations entirely, you might consider reading My Merry Christmas: And the real reason for Christmas joy instead of this book to teach your small children about Christmas traditions because it does not address Santa at all. Good for preschool to early elementary children.
(This is a book with a similar premise but told in verse and with a strictly Christian focus; the book is also a board book and is sparkly with cut-outs (see my review from last year here).)