Christmas Stories: Hispanic Heritage

From the adventures of Santa's Mexican cousin to the rituals of preparing for Three Kings Day and Las posadas, these books celebrate time-honored Latino holiday traditions with warmth, wit, and fun.

'Twas Nochebuena

Illustrated by: Sara Palacios
Age Level: 3-6
It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

A Piñata in a Pine Tree

In this festive holiday book, Pat Mora blends traditions by setting her own Spanish lyrics to the popular Christmas carol, "The Twelve Days of Christmas." Each verse describes a Latino custom, often related to the celebration of Three Kings Day: "On the second day of Christmas my amiga gave to me / dos pastelitos / and a piñata in a pine tree." Vibrant acrylic illustrations of guitarritas, luminarias, and piñatas dance with joy on the colorful pages.

Carlos, Light the Farolito

Illustrated by: Donna Clair
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: On Christmas Eve, Carlos is dismayed to see the procession of neighbors and friends coming up the front walk for Las Posadas. His parents and grandfather aren't home yet — so it's up to Carlos to take over Grandfather's role as the Innkeeper. But he's so frightened, he can hardly breathe, let alone sing! Carlos's triumph over his shyness, and the joyful celebration that follows, make this a satisfying story for any season.

Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid

Age Level: 3-6

On Christmas Eve, Vicent discovers that his uncle, Tío Pancho, is actually Santa's Mexican cousin! Santa needs his help delivering presents along the border with Mexico and wants to know if Pancho is up for the challenge. His mariachi outfit may be too tight and his guitar may be missing a few strings, but with a little magic and a team of lucha libre burros, Pancho is ready to save Christmas. The colorful illustrations and hilarious adventures of Charro Claus will have a special resonance with children who call the border home.

Federico and the Magi's Gift: A Latin American Christmas Story

Age Level: 3-6

Product Description: It's the Feast of the Three Kings, and that means the Three Wise Men, or Magi, will ride through the night sky to deliver gifts to children. Four-year-old Federico has misbehaved, and now he is afraid the Magi won't leave him any presents. As his brother and sister prepare hay and water for the Magi's camels, Federico wonders if the Magi will really come. This gorgeously illustrated storybook by Beatriz Vidal glows with warmth and holiday cheer, and readers everywhere will surely find themselves scanning the night skies for the Magi.

Going Home

Illustrated by: David Diaz
Age Level: 6-9

Mama and Papa are excited to take a break from working in the fields and go home, but Carlos and his sisters are not sure how they feel about traveling to Mexico. Soon after arriving, however, they meet their loving extended family, and the children begin to understand what it meant for their parents to leave home in order to offer the family a better future. David Diaz's stunning illustrations layered on top of photos of Mexican folk art bring Eve Bunting's beautiful story to life.

Grandma's Gift

Age Level: 6-9

It's Christmastime, and Eric has a special assignment — he has to write a report about a new painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Eric's grandmother makes a deal with him: if he will help her make traditional Puerto Rican pasteles, she will take him to the museum. Together they leave the familiar neighborhoods of Spanish Harlem and venture out to the Met, where Eric encounters a painting that changes his life. A note from author and illustrator Eric Velasquez provides some background to this quiet yet profound story from his childhood.

La Nochebuena South of the Border

In this bilingual version of "The Night Before Christmas," Santa Claus is Papá Noel and his reindeer are eight burros pulling a cart.

Las Posadas: An Hispanic Christmas Celebration

This photo-essays explores the preparations for the celebration of Las Posadas taking place within a Hispanic community in New Mexico, including the food, folk art, and music associated with the holiday. Text in English. Spanish-language recipe for biscochitos included.

Mama Had to Work on Christmas

Illustrated by: Robert Casilla
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: In this short chapter book, we meet Gloria, who always spends Christmas with Papi, Mama, and Nana. But this Christmas, Papi is away picking oranges and Mama has to work at the hotel where she is a maid. Gloria soon discovers that the lavish decorations and foods piled high on the tables are only for the guests. How Gloria moves from disappointment to understanding makes for a poignant story that honors the true spirit of the Christmas season.

Miracle on 133rd Street

Illustrated by: Marjorie Priceman
Age Level: 6-9

It's Christmas Eve and Mami has bought a delicious roast for a Christmas feast. But it’s too big to fit in the oven! Jose and Papa need to find an oven big enough to cook Mami’s roast. As they walk from door to door through their apartment building, no one seems to be in the Christmas spirit. So they head down the street to find someone willing to help, and only when they do, lo and behold, the scent—the itself magical smell—of dinner begins to spread, and holiday cheer manifests in ways most unexpected.

My Little Donkey / Mi Burrito

Age Level: 3-6

This holiday book is based on one of the most popular Christmas carols in Spanish: “Mi Burrito Sabanero“ (The Little Donkey from the Savannah). This bilingual children’s book follows the journey of a trotting donkey on his way to Bethlehem to meet baby Jesus.

N Is for Navidad / La N es de Navidad

Illustrated by: Joe Cepeda
Age Level: 3-6

Join a joyous Latino celebration of Christmas from A to Z (angel to zapatos), enjoying the sights and symbols of the holiday. The book features a bilingual poem in English and Spanish. Additional explanations and Spanish holiday words conclude this energetic book with colorful and vibrant illustrations.

Navidad y Pancho Claus/Christmas and Pancho Claus

Christmas is celebrated with this traditional collection of holiday music in Spanish. These joyful songs express the traditions of the holiday and its cultural importance throughout Latin America and other Spanish speaking countries.

The Christmas Gift

"A few days before Christmas, Panchito's family decided it was time to move again." So begins the Christmas tale of a young boy whose migrant family is struggling to make ends meet. Based on the childhood experiences of author Francisco Jim&eacuate;nez, the beautiful story and paintings capture Panchito's loneliness, as well as his parents' devotion to their children and each other.

The Legend of the Poinsettia

In this retelling of a beloved Mexican folktale, Tomie dePaola presents Lucinda, a young girl who is helping her mother weave a new blanket for Baby Jesus to be used in the Christmas procession to the church. When her mother falls ill, however, Lucinda tries to continue weaving and is distraught when the blanket's threads get tangled. She is sure that she has ruined the celebration — until a Christmas miracle brings forth the flaming red-star flowers that we still enjoy each December. Beautiful artwork will enthrall readers.

The Road to Santiago

Illustrated by: Pablo Torecilla
Age Level: Middle Grade (9-14)

It's Christmas Eve as Alfredito and his parents head for the train station to visit their relatives in Santiago. But this year, the trains are not running because the government is fighting a war against the rebels, and Alfredito worries that they'll miss the family's traditional Christmas celebration. When Alfredito's father enlists the help of a farmer, the family embarks on a great adventure that the young boy will never forget. Brighly-colored illustrations depict scenes and styles from 1950s-era Cuba.

The Storyteller's Candle

This is the story of librarian Pura Belpré, told through the eyes of two young children who are introduced to the library and its treasures just before Christmas. Lulu Delacre's lovely illustrations evoke New York City at the time of the Great Depression, as well as the close-knit and vibrant Puerto Rican community that was thriving in El Barrio during this time. Bilingual Spanish-English text.

Too Many Tamales

For their family's Christmas celebration, María's mother makes lots of tamales. But while María is helping out, she tries on her mother's ring and loses it in the dough. Without telling the adults, María and her young relatives try to find it — by eating all the tamales!

When Christmas Feels Like Home

Illustrated by: Carolina Farias
Age Level: 6-9

Product Description: After moving from a small village in Mexico to a town in the United States, Eduardo is sure it will never feel quite like home. The other children don't speak his language and they do not play f&uacue;tbol.