Family Reading: The Greatest Christmas Stories

Throughout the ages, families have gathered together for story time on Christmas Eve, when one of the elders of the family would typically read "Twas the Night Before Christmas" or, perhaps, Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". Whenever the thought of holiday comes to mind, one tends to think of these two classics. As a result, other great Christmas stories for children are overlooked. If you're interested in initiating the tradition of holiday reading with your family - or have been reading each year, but are looking for something new - here are some suggestions for great holiday books that the whole family will enjoy.

THE LITTLEST ANGEL by Charles Tazewell

Since 1946, this wonderful book has been delighting children and is especially enjoyed when read aloud. The book describes an impish little cherub who, for one reason or another, finds himself getting into mischief continuously. When it becomes evident that he's actually homesick for his life on earth, he's allowed to go back long enough to recover a box of his most beloved possessions. Upon the birth of the Christ Child, the tiny angel offers his cherished box as a gift to the baby, but fears that his present is inadequate. God, on the other hand, was so pleased with this gesture that he transformed the box into the Star of Bethlehem.


Two youngsters set out from their Nebraska orphanage - in spite of a raging blizzard - to find a Christmas tree and, instead, find themselves caught in the twists and turns of a holiday adventure. Among the cast of characters that they meet during their travels are Merlin the Wizard, a fire-breathing dinosaur, a genie, the sister winds and many others. Eventually, they reach the Mountain of Doom, where they must gather up their courage when faced with the witch's castle. The two orphans nearly fall into despair before reaching their destiny.

THE POLAR EXPRESS by Chris Van Allsburg

This is a wonderfully imaginative book, highlighting the experiences of a young boy and the doubts that he's struggling with regarding his continued belief in Santa Claus. Late one Christmas Eve - while lying in bed and straining to hear evidence of the approach of Santa - his whole life turns around when a steam train barrels through his room, taking him on a fantastic journey to the North Pole, where a very special gift is bestowed upon those who still believe. This youngster and his fellow travelers - who are all aboard the Polar Express - are in for excitement and plenty of adventure on this very magical journey.

THE SILENT BELLS by William MacKellar

For those who prefer a story that focuses more on the true meaning of Christmas, this poignant book weaves a marvelous tale about a young girl who longs to hear the cathedral bells ring in her village in Switzerland - something that no-one has ever heard. When that very special gift is presented to the crèche on Christmas Eve, will the bells finally resound? Such is the hope of a young Swiss girl as the sacred holiday draws nearer. This beautiful story includes lovely illustrations and provides the backdrop for some very special family reading time.


This unique story retells the birth of the Christ Child as seen from an angel's perspective. While talking to the angel at the top of his family's Christmas tree, a young boy whiles away the time late one Christmas Eve by asking questions of the angelic tree topper, known as Alabaster. Of course, all of the questions are rhetorical...until he asks the angel what it was like to see Bethlehem. Suddenly, Alabaster responds, weaving a wonderful tale of the first Christmas, and ultimately befriending a young boy who chose to spend his Christmas Eve with an angel.


In a small Russian village, there lives Alexi and his grandmother - who tells him the story of the marvelous church that he sees each time he ventures outside. After learning that the church has been unused for sixty years, Alexi faces the challenge of making some much needed changes and sets out to bring a Christmas miracle to the village. This is a heartwarming book that focuses on the spiritual aspects of Christmas, rather than the Santa Claus approach, and is enjoyed by adults and children alike. It's a great story for reading aloud.

THE CHRISTMAS BOX by Richard Paul Evans

An elderly woman decides to advertise for a couple who can cook and do light housekeeping for her, and - since the house is quite large - she can accommodate a family with children, if need be. As it happens, the Evanses and their four-year-old daughter are in desperate need of a new home, since they"˜re squeezed into a tiny one-bedroom apartment. When the two sides come together, a strong family bond is formed between them, and the young man learns a priceless lesson from the elderly woman and her Christmas box.

THE CHRISTMAS CANDLE by Richard Paul Evans

On his way home one cold Christmas Eve, Thomas - a rather unkind young man who looks down his nose at the impoverished - decides to stop and buy a candle for his lantern. When he locates a shop, he enters and buys an inexpensive variety of candle, but the shop owner warns him that it may be very costly to him, in the long run. Not questioning or heeding the words of the shopkeeper, Thomas leaves the shop with the candle firmly in his lantern. As he journeys toward home, every beggar and street person that's touched by the candle's light reflects the face of one of his loved ones. Through a conversion of heart, he gives over everything he has and heads for home - penniless, but joyful.

THE NUTCRACKER by Janet Schulman, et al

This adaptation of the wonderful classic, which inspired the ballet, offers more detail than the original work. In this delightful story about a girl who helps a nutcracker defeat an army of mice, there is the happiest of endings when that same nutcracker transforms into a handsome prince - after, of course, the girl visits the Land of Toys and a battle is waged between the King of Mice and the brave Nutcracker. There have been a number of adaptations through the years, but this edition of the Christmas classic is a good read and will be enjoyed by everyone who has the good fortune to participate in the family reading circle.


While this is actually a compilation of letters that were written to his children once each Christmas, J.R.R. Tolkien weaves a beautiful story, from the first letter to the last. Throughout these marvelous letters (supposedly from Father Christmas to the children), many tales are told, such as his ongoing struggles at the North Pole with things such as renegade reindeer, goblins who live beneath his house, a clumsy polar bear who falls through his roof and the moon breaking into four pieces, causing the Man in the Moon to fall into his garden. This collection is a "must read" for every family, and is written in true Tolkien style.

Some of the Christmas books listed here take a bit more time to read, but every one is well worth the time it takes to do so. Perhaps, rather than one reading session on Christmas Eve, you might consider reading a bit each evening during the days that lead up to Christmas, if you select a book that's a bit longer. Regardless of which one you choose, you'll have the opportunity to read some wonderful holiday literature and spend some quality time with the family, as well.

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