Non-religious, non-Santa Christmas books for kids

December 12 2014 | offbeatbride
Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children
Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children
I'm wondering if anyone has recommendations for non-religious, non-Santa Christmas books for kids. We're atheists, and we aren't doing Santa either. I just found Little Blue Truck's Christmas. In it, the truck delivers Christmas trees to friends. It's perfect for my two-year old.

Anyone have other non-religious, non-Santa Christmas books that might be good for toddlers, preschoolers, and older kids too?

Thanks so much! -Emily

Here are some more book ideas…

Christmas Around the World
Christmas Around the World

"Ethiopian fringed umbrellas; star-shaped Filipino parol lanterns; candlelit Swedish St. Lucia crowns — Mary Lankford brings together Christmas traditions from twelve different lands, like decorations on a splendid tree."
 

Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children
Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children

Celebrating the Great Mother: A Handbook of Earth-Honoring Activities for Parents and Children: "The ideas, suggestions, and activities collected here bring children into rituals that celebrate seasonal cycles and help reclaim the spiritual roots of today's modern holidays." (Feminist Bookstore News)
 

The Muppets: The Twelve Days of a Muppet Christmas: And a Chicken in a Pine Tree (Muppets (Little, Brown and Company))
The Muppets: The Twelve Days of a Muppet Christmas: And a Chicken in a Pine Tree (Muppets (Little, Brown and Company))

"Get into the holiday spirit with the Muppets as they count down to Christmas with friends-a-singing, fruitcakes flying, pine trees running amok, and…a chicken in a pine tree! This Muppet twist to a classic carol will have you singing long after the holidays are over. Gatefold flaps inside reveal holiday surprises!"

What are YOUR go-to, non-religious, non-Santa Christmas books for kids?

  1. We're atheist, too, although we are "doing Santa." I've got some great book recommendations for you, anyway!

    The Tomten

    The Story of the Snow Children

    The Lump of Coal (by Daniel Handler/Lemony Snicket…claims to be a Humanist, but I am really, really not so sure about his watermelon joke directed at a black female author. Dear me. A nice book, though, maybe unfortunately.)

    Merry Fairy Holidays: Three Enchanted Christmas Stories (Flower Fairies)

    The Nutcracker

    Who's That Knocking on Christmas Eve?

    A Solstice Tree for Jenny (This one is good for older kids, featuring an areligious family. There are also a LOT of Solistice books!)

    3 agree
    • I should mention that the Lemony Snicket one does have a Santa in it…but he's a guy who works at the drug store.

      2 agree
  2. Why didn't I think of asking that question here? Thank you, Emily. We've been getting so much crap lately for not doing Santa in our house, but in the words of my husband, "I don't ever want our daughter to think it's okay for some old man in a weird suit to break into our house and leave her presents from his sack." We do teach her the history/explain the "legend" so-to-speak and she knows not to spoil the fun for kids who believe. According to our families and some friends, we're "ruining her sense of wonder and magic", but I remember being devastated when I found out "the truth" and we try our best not to ever outright lie to her.

    I've looked at several secular homeschooling groups and found recommendations for "A Solstice Tree for Jenny" and "The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice." I know they aren't exactly "Christmas" books, but they're at least seasonally appropriate. Depending how firmly you want to define the Santa-free aspect of the book, you could include something like "How the Grinch Stole Christmas ." Another book that sticks out in my mind is "The Story of Holly and Ivy" by Rumer Godden(I think it's the only Christmas book I had growing up that didn't mention Jesus.) It has the "Magic of Christmas" sort of thing going, but isn't religious and doesn't, to my recollection, mention Santa. If nothing else, maybe one of the books I listed will garner good suggestions of other similar titles on Amazon. I'll be watching this and try to add anything I come across/remember through the day.

    11 agree
  3. 'The Magic Saddle' was a particular favourite of mine as a child. About a little boy who wishes for a rocking horse for christmas. He gets a gingerbread rocking horse that takes him on all sorts of adventures. Here's a link to UK amazon, I'm sure you could get it in the US as well.

    How the Grinch stole christmas by Dr Seuss would also be on my list.

    3 agree
    • This book is so great! It's also good because it grows with the child, like 2 year olds like the story but older children can enjoy doing the things themselves.

      1 agrees
    • All of the Jolly Postman books are so beautiful and fun!
      Word of caution – The Jolly Christmas Postman does end with the postman going to Santa's workshop, so it doesn't fit the no-Santa requirement.

  4. My kids and step-kids are now 25, 19, 16, and 14. One of my biggest parenting regrets is that I didn't hold fast to the No Christmas rule from the time they were born. I am Pagan and my husband is agnostic. We were both raised in fairly non-religious households. Celebrating Christmas, even a completely secular Christmas, as a non-Christian has always felt uncomfortable to me. My husband was always fine with it and we were always with extended family during the holidays so I always played along. We did explain the whole "Santa is not real" thing to our kids from the very beginning but we do all the other (completely pagan) trappings… yet my family still for some reason is completely stuck on calling it Christmas.

    We are not Christians. We are proud to be non-Christians. So why are we still celebrating a Christian holiday, Christ's Mass? If we're stuck on celebrating the Winter Solstice with all the Pagan Germanic trappings (the trees, the lights, the garlanding, the feasting, the gifts, the alcohol…) then why not just call it Solstice and let the Christian stuff go? I'm going to try to talk openly about this when my family gathers for our giant feast after decorating our very pagan "Christmas" tree.

    17 agree
    • Thank you for articulating this so well. It's so true, the holiday is Christian in name but in very little else. If you take away the pagan Solstice elements and the Western consumerism (embodied in Santa Claus), what do you have left? My husband and I have grappled with this a lot but for different reasons than you – we are Christian. We practice Christmas minimalism, which basically means no Santa, one gift each, and nativity and candles for decor. A focus on spending time with family and kindness/goodwill towards others.

      4 agree
  5. The Christmas Wish by Lori Evert- a little girl who goes on a magical winterland adventure. Beautiful Nordic winter scene images. Her quest is to be Santa's elf… but honestly there's not much Santa as the focus is on her quest and the nice things she does for others.

    1 agrees
    • I was going to mention Christmas Trolls! Still one of my favorites. I had a painted wooden horse just like the one in the book until our dog chewed it up. I was devastated. We had The Mitten too but I'm not familiar with The Gingerbread Man – I'll have to check it out!

      3 agree
  6. "Night Tree" is a nice one – a family decorates a tree in the woods with edible things for wild animals. As far as I remember there's no mention of religion or Santa.

    "The Snowman" is a wordless book about a boy's adventure with the snowman he built – they made it into a short film which does include Santa, but the original book does not. It's a winter book rather than a Christmas book but we always "read" it around Christmas time.

    I'm not sure if this one would be quite right for you. "The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree: An Appalachian Story" has religious elements in the story – a girl and her mother getting a Christmas tree for the town church while the father is away with the army at the end of WWI, and the girl plays the part of the angel in the Christmas play – but it's historical context, rather than preaching. It's about familial love much more than religion. Might be worth taking a look at, and it could be a way to help explain what other people believe about Christmas. Oh, I just remembered that there's someone dressed up as Santa at the Christmas play as well. Historical content again but that would be another point against the book in terms of what you're looking for. Ah well, I'll leave this paragraph because it really is a lovely book and I want to recommend it for those who don't mind the church and Santa being in the story!

    3 agree
  7. I just found "Duck & Goose, It's Time for Christmas!" randomly while shopping for baby gifts for a friend, and it is very simple and has no Santa or religious aspects (aside from a decorated tree and the word Christmas). It's listed for ages 0-3. Definitely not something that will be a holiday classic for older kids, but charming.

    1 agrees
  8. Thanks everyone for your great suggestions!! I have reserved some at the library, and bought "Jan Brett's Snowy Treasury" just now that contains several of the books others have mentioned.

    One book we do have of is Jan Brett is "The Twelve Days of Christmas". The illustrations are beautiful of course, and the song is secular (aside from the premise of 12 days of Christmas itself, so my kids just think it's about counting).

    Two other books we love that are great winter books that have nothing to do with Christmas are "Ten on the Sled" and "If It's Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws!" by Kim Norman. The illustrations are great and they're fun to sing, especially "Clap Your Paws".

    3 agree
    • Jan Brett has so many great Christmas books, and so many of them are beautiful and secular, and feature different cultures. I'm kind of obsessed with her right now.

  9. I don't have kids, so I'm not searching for books like this, nor do I know of any. But this question and the answers make me love the OB world even more! If I *did* have kids, I would probably want to present Christmas in much the same way that many of you have. Congratulations to all of you for apparently pulling it off.

    I was raised essentially agnostic, but we still celebrated Christmas with a tree and Santa. I wouldn't have expected anything else and don't regret my parents' choices, but as an adult I feel so much more comfortable not celebrating a holiday connected to a religion that is not my own.

    6 agree
  10. My sister and I loved "Clementine's winter wardrobe" as kids. It's not much of a story, and is winter-themed, not Christmas, but it's cute. The fun is picking your favourite piece of clothing, or the one you think she is going to pick, for each item (mittens, scarf, etc.).

  11. Definitely: http://www.bramblyhedge.co.uk/Secret-Staircase

    This is a story of a mid-winter celebration – 'when the days are the shortest, the nights are the longest'. I poured over this book more times than I can remember as a kid, because the brother-and-sister mice in this story find treasures in the secret staircase, and get to share it back with their family. What kid doesn't love secret hiding spaces and keys and showing adults something they didn't even know existed? ๐Ÿ™‚

    4 agree
  12. Hello, fellow atheist here. I celebrate a non-religious Christmas, but I do celebrate Santa. Here are a couple of suggestions:

    A Porcupine in a Pine Tree (a Canadian 12 days of Christmas)

    A Christmas-tastic Carol (Adventure Time-themed Christmas Carol)

    Carl's Christmas (this book has no words, but I loved it even when I was an older kid…I don't think there's much – if any – reference to Santa)

    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is always a good pick for all ages.

    I would've suggested The Polar Express, because it's such a wonderful classic…but there's a major Santa theme there. Too bad!

    1 agrees
  13. Ooo! Ooo! Yay I get to suggest my favorite childhood "Christmas" book!

    "Apple Tree Christmas" by Trinka Hakes Noble. http://www.trinkahakesnoble.com/appletree.html

    This is one of the few books my parents have read every Christmas eve since I can remember. I'm honestly getting teary-eyed just thinking about it. The book is about a family that lives on a farm. A big storm hits, and their beloved apple tree is destroyed ๐Ÿ™ But it makes for a lovely surprise for the daughters on Christmas morning! No santa, and no religious references. I love this book!

    3 agree
  14. Some great ones are:

    1. "Bialosky's Christmas" by Leslie McGuire, which involves a lot of Christmas observations like gift-giving, selecting a Christmas tree, and making a meal, but does not involve religion or Santa Claus. I like it because it really shows the effort we put into Christmas and celebrating ourselves. If follows a bear through his day as he prepares a Christ mas party for his friends.

    2. "Morris' Disappearing Bag" by Rosemary Wells, which takes place on Christmas morning after the presents have been opened.

    3 & 4. "Henry And Mudge In The Sparkle Days" AND "Henry and Mudge and a Very Merry Christmas" by Cynthia Rylant and Sucie Stevenson. Both of these books focus on family and celebration and traditions other than religious ones. There is nary a Santa Claus in sight, and instead we see Henry and his family making cookies, caroling, playing in the snow, giving gifts, enjoying nature, enjoying Christmas dinner together. Each of the books is broken into 3 shorter stories. (The whole Henry and Mudge series is worth checking out, honestly. The themes of the books are always creativity, family, and morals that are not rooted in any kind of religious doctrine.)

    5. An adaptation of the sone "Winter Wonderland" illustrated by Jacqueline Rogers which stars a host of anthropomorphic mice, chickadees, and chipmunks. The song is usually associated with Christmas but is really just about winter, and the story the pictures tell alongside the words is a fun, colorful wintertime romp.

    6. And finally, there is a brief mention of Santa Claus on the final page of this final book, but it can easily be left out when reading it: "Once There Was A Christmas Tree" by Jerry Smath is a BEAUTIFUL story of 4 different families that end up sharing a Christmas tree cut up into 4 parts. It is a story of people who think of others and share with them. Santa Claus is NOT an important part of the story in any way shape or form, and can be completely ignored. The story is sooo worth reading as a tale of pure human kindness (even though the story again stars anthropomorphic animals) and sharing with the people in our community, including friends, the elderly, and those less fortunate than ourselves. I know you specified "No Santa" but its worth reading regardless, and it is VERY easy to leave this element out of the story entirely.

    1 agrees
  15. The Gift of Nothing is utterly charming, with an excellent message and has a holiday feel without being explicitly about Christmas.

  16. Thanks for these great suggestions! I am an atheist but I do do Santa with my kids. Yes he's based off a saint, but I guess with my agnostic mother I just thought of him as a very nice guy in the north. I did consider doing the "Christmas Fairy" instead buuut the kids heard about Santa from different sources so it's just like okay, Santas coming!

    1 agrees
  17. we just discovered "a coyote solstice tale" at the library, which we read on the first night of our week-long solstice celebration that we do instead of christmas. it's not a really great book, but it definitely hits the general gist of what we are celebrating.

  18. I lobe Holiday stories even though I am Jewish. Ones that show the magic of giving. Like Why the Chimes rang By John Alden. I am trying to find an old story that I used when I was a school Librarian. I don't koknow the name of it but it was about a brother and sister who's father was ill and couldn't cut trees etc. their mother was also ill. The boy goes out to the forest to get their Christmas tree and while there helps some small creatures and a poor girl ( I think) He finds a beautiful flower blooming in the snow. and takes it home. The King of the land Has been looking for this legendary plant and hears about it at the children's home. I can't remember any more. Caan any one help me. It seems collections of stories like this are not available in book stores. I guess I should try my local library but I don't remember seeing it there when I was working there.

  19. I always thought of The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats as a Christmas book, although there's not any mention of Christmas or Santa in it; just snow and winter fun. There is such a sense of wonder in the main character and his love for playing in the snow that I thin kthe "Christmas Magic" is there for sure.

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.