I am often asked about ways to study or celebrate Christmas around the world- and one of the most popular countries I’m asked about is Mexico. One excellent way for kids to learn about kids and cultural traditions in other places is to read great quality children’s literature with engaging stories and vivid illustrations to pique and hold interest. Here is a collection of our favorite children’s books about Christmas in Mexico, that cover traditional folktales, contemporary fiction, religious stories, and immigrant stories (or children whose parents were immigrants).
The Night of Las Posadas and The Legend of the Poinsettia by beloved children’s author Tomie DePaola are 2 excellent books that capture kids’ attention while telling religious aspects of Christmas. The first book describes the Mexican Christmas tradition of Las Posadas, where families act out the journey of Mary and Joseph looking for a place to stay before Jesus is born. The Legend of the Poinsettia shares the traditional folktale of the flower’s origin and significance, which “first bloomed” on Christmas Eve (both the flowers and Christmas Eve are called Noche Buena in Spanish) for baby Jesus.
The Miracle of the First Poinsettia: A Mexican Christmas Story by Joanne Oppenheim is another version of the traditional Mexican folktale about the first poinsettia (la flor de noche buena), and how they miraculously bloomed for baby Jesus at the midnight Christmas mass.
Spirit Child: A Story of the Nativity (my library only had the Spanish version: El Niño Espíritu: Una historia de la Natividad) is a really extraordinary book- it is the story of the birth of Jesus (the Spirit Child) as told by missionary Bernardino de Sahagún with Aztec poets in 1583. So cool to read this unique perspective! I really liked the illustrations as well, and loved that the characters in this Nativity are all indigenous.
A Piñata in a Pine Tree: A Latino Twelve Days of Christmas is written by one of my favorite bilingual authors, Pat Mora. You can read the lyrics in the book to the traditional tune that everyone knows, but these 12 Days of Christmas have a cultural twist that introduces readers to the unique aspects of Christmas in Mexico. The colors in the illustrations are so vibrant and happy and Latin!
Too Many Tamales by award-winning author Gary Soto has been one of my favorites for years. When a young girl is helping to make the tamales (a common family Christmas tradition in Mexico), she thinks she loses her mom’s ring in the masa and convinces her cousins to help her quickly finish all of the tamales to look for the ring. As a contemporary story of a Latino family, Too Many Tamales is now in our rotation of “Christmas Books,” and one if my kids’ favorites.
I knew I had to find this book when I saw it had just been published. Brand new this year, When Christmas Feels Like Home by Gretchen Griffin is a really sweet book about a boy who has immigrated to the US from Mexico and is struggling to fit in. After sharing the story with my kids, I now can’t wait to read this to my ESL students- the message of “home is where your family is” would resonate with immigrants, expats, and anyone who misses their home.
Also about a Mexican immigrant family in the US, Going Home (by acclaimed author Eve Bunting) is the touching story of family returning to their village and relatives in Mexico for Christmas. Both my ESL students and my own kids enjoyed this book, and its warm message of the importance of family. The long carride resonated with us as we “go home” every holiday to see our family!
Pablo’s Christmas by Hugo C. Martin talks about a young boy getting ready for Christmas in rural Mexico, while his father is away earning money for the family (note: when reading it, I like to point out that Mexico has huge cities as well as small villages so that children know this is only one story of Mexico). I love showing my children differing perspectives of kids around the world, and children’s literature is an inviting and engaging way to do so.
Home for Navidad by Harriet Ziefert is another story that touches on the hardships family’s face when a parent is working in the US. Rosa is still in Mexico, and hopes that her mom will come home for Christmas this year. Although this book isn’t new, it is new to me. I think it would be a wonderful writing prompt for kids. For example:
“Write a journal entry for Rosa dated the week before Christmas. How is she feeling?”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this round-up of children’s books about Christmas in Mexico! I would argue that it is the most important holiday in Mexico, and reading stories such as these will teach our kids about principal values in Mexican culture such as the importance of family and their faith. In the comments, let me know if I’ve missed any great books about Christmas in Mexico!