December is here and there’s a good chance your calendar is packed. Your family may celebrate one of the following holidays: Hanukkah, Christmas, or Kwanzaa – each observed this month. Red Apple Reading is taking a look at these three holidays along with some books to go with each. Enjoy!


Hanukkah is celebrated each year on the 25th of Kislev (according to the Jewish calendar) and lasts for eight days and nights. This year Hanukkah will be observed December 12 – December 20. Hanukkah commemorates the triumph of the Maccabees in the second century B.C. over the Syrian Greeks (who occupied Israel) and the purifying and re-dedication of the temple that followed. Also known as the “holiday of lights”, Hanukkah is celebrated with the lighting of the Menorah (Hanukiah) each evening after sunset, commemorating the “miracle of oil”. Check out these books about the holiday:

Festival of Lights: The Story of Hanukkah (Maida Silverman)
Festival of Lights recounts the story of the Maccabeean revolt and the restoration of the Jewish temple. The book also includes a section about the legend of the Menorah, music for a traditional song, and instructions for making a dreidel. Ages 5-10

Maccabee! : The Story of Hanukkah (Tilda Balsley)
This lively telling of the history of Hanukkah is presented to young children in a rhyming format. Judah and the Maccabees stand up against King Antiochus – “Sometimes it only takes a few, who know what’s right, and do it too.” Ages 3–8


Created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, Kwanzaa is celebrated from December 26-January 1 each year. According to Dr. Karenga, Kwanzaa is “a deeply meaningful and special time of remembrance, reflection and recommitment for us as a people throughout the world African community.” The seven principles of Kwanzaa are unity, self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. Each night of the celebration a candle is lit on the kinara and a special feast (a karamu) is held on the evening of the 31st. Looking for a children’s book about Kwanzaa? Consider the following:

The Story of Kwanzaa (Donna L. Washington)
Washington describes the stories and rituals that make up the festival of Kwanzaa in this beautifully illustrated book. Children will learn the history of the holiday that celebrates African American heritage. Fun activities are included at the end of the book. Ages 6-10

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story (Angela Shelf Medearis)
Written especially for the festival of Kwanzaa, this book weaves in the seven principles of Kwanzaa in a story. The tale is set in an African village where seven quarreling brothers must work together to turn seven spools of thread into gold. Ages 4-8


The Christmas season is the time of year that Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. Although the actual day of his birth is unknown, Christians celebrate Christ’s birth on December 25th. Another name given for Jesus in the Bible is “Immanuel”- which means “God with us.” Christians regard Christ’s birth as the most important birth ever because God took on human flesh and offered the gift of eternal life to those who would trust in Him for salvation. These books are a good choice for those interested in the spiritual aspect of the holiday:

The First Christmas Night (Keith Christopher ) – This is a nice, lyrical (modeled from ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas) retelling of the birth of Christ. Includes Christ’s birth, the Angels telling of the good news to the shepherds, and the visit of the wise men. Ages 4-8

Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story (Sally Lloyd-Jones)
In this beautifully written and illustrated book, the creation excitedly anticipates the birth of a Savior. Although it’s meant for young children, kids and adults alike will appreciate this unique perspective on the Christmas story. Ages 4-8

Of course many people choose to celebrate Christmas from a purely secular perspective or combine the spiritual and the secular. Stories of Santa, reindeer, and snowmen are some of the themes in these households and gift giving is usually a big part of the celebration. This classic Christmas tale never grows old:

The Night Before Christmas (Clement C. Moore)
Charles Santore’s gorgeous illustrations accompany the classic poem by Clement C. Moore. A great read aloud for, well, the night before Christmas! All ages

Perhaps you learned something you didn’t already know about these different December celebrations. Remember, if your family exchanges gifts during the holidays, you can’t go wrong by giving the gift of a good book! Happy Holidays from Red Apple Reading!