Christmas Around the World, by Mary D. Lankford, illustrated by Karen Dugan (1995)
This nonfiction book gives a somewhat detailed overview of the history of Christmas and modern celebrations in twelve different countries around the world.
Although this book is written with children in mind, it is probably best to share within a family or with a group of children and focusing on just one country at a time. Arranged alphabetically, it features information on Australia, Canada, Ethiopia, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, Sweden, and the United States (specifically Alaska). A numbered map is located at the front of the book, and all the basic features of nonfiction are also present: table of contents, an appendix with a variety of trivia and information, a bibliography, and an index. There is also a craft section and a selection of Christmas superstitions from around the world.
Each country’s entry includes a traditional symbol of the season in that country (St. Lucia crown for Sweden, the flor de noche buena in Mexico, etc.), the traditional greeting, and the typical weather in that country during the Christmas celebration. A little geographic information is included about each country, some of the history and background of Christmas celebrations, and a reasonably thorough description of some of the major traditions and dates of Christmas celebrations. (Hint: it’s not all about the 25th!) In addition to the interesting and comprehensive information included about each country, the illustrations are lovely and show some unique aspect of that country’s celebration. The borders of each page are country-appropriate patterns that accent the colors of the pages and illustration.
I think this book would be a wonderful addition to a school or classroom library, homeschool collection, or even just for a family with an interest in how Christmas is celebrated around the world. The different traditions are treated with respect and are given a historical and religious context. The illustrations are inviting, and the various traditions open the door for exploring further about a country and its traditions even in a non-Christmas setting. While the text itself is probably best for elementary-aged children (with middle to mostly upper elementary ages able to read it independently), the crafts and traditions are things that can be explored by whole families and include younger children.
(For additional Christmas titles, try searching for other books titled “Christmas Around the World”…they’re surprisingly common!)