The 25 Books of Christmas- Plus 5 Ways to Make it Work for Your Family

A few years ago, we introduced our favorite Christmas countdown activity to #thebigone- the 25 Books of Christmas. I wrap up 25 holiday themed books sometime in November, and when December rolls around, he can open a book to read each evening. It’s a great tradition as it helps build excitement about the upcoming holiday, encourages family reading time, and can help build your home library, if you choose to participate in it in that way.

countdown to christmas with books old christmas countdown
Some previous countdowns… Taken with an older phone, obviously! Times have changed!

The first year we tried out this advent calendar, I purchased a mix of new and used holiday themed books to wrap. #thebigone was still pretty young at that point, and his library was nothing like it is today, so buying some books new almost felt like a necessity. The following year, I decided to try wrapping up a mix of holiday books we already owned, and some I purchased second hand. #thebigone was NOT having it. We took pictures that year as he opened his books each evening, and you can VERY clearly tell which books are new to him and which are not, based on a real smile vs. a fake smile. Everytime he opened one he already owned, he would remind me, in his matter of fact three year old way, “Mommy. My books are for reading. They are not for wrapping. Stop doing this.” [Sassy from the very start, this kid.]

boy with max and ruby christmas book boy with my first christmas book
Legitimate enthusiasm on the left. Think maybe he’s read the one on the right before?!

So the following year, we switched back to wrapping 25 books he had never seen before, and that continues to be the way we enjoy the 25 Books of Christmas at our house. Before you ask, yes, we own A LOT of holiday books. We pack them away January through November, and it’s always fun to open the boxes when the holiday season begins. We love to sort through them, and find favorites we haven’t read in a while.

At this point, I buy only used books, because even I can’t justify the expense of 25 brand new books every December. (And I can almost always justify book shopping- just ask my husband!). If you’re interested in beginning this tradition with your family, here are some ideas about how you can get it started without blowing your holiday budget OR overloading your bookshelves this December.

2016 25 books of Christmas

Our 2016 book countdown is all wrapped & ready to go!

1. Cross your fingers that your kids aren’t picky (like mine!)
There’s no reason you have to introduce 25 new books each year. If your children won’t be as choosy as mine, you can save a ton by simply picking 25 books you already have and wrapping them. Choose your books early in the year, maybe August or so, and set them aside so there’s a break in reading them. This will help the books feel that much more special when they’re unwrapped in December.

2. Diversify.
Sure, we like to make all of the books in our advent activity fit the holiday theme, but it’s not a necessity. Can you find great deals on books about other topics? Those will work just as well, and it’s still setting a special time aside each evening for some family reading & bonding. Additionally, while we always do holiday themed, we do not only choose Christmas books. If I find a really cute book about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or New Years, I won’t hestitate to pick it up. It’s a great way to add some cultural awareness to your reading, which is always a good thing in my opinion.

christmas tree made of books green book tree

3. Buy used & start early.
Used books are just as much fun to unwrap, read, and share as brand new ones. Some of the places I regularly score great books at phenomenal prices are garage sales, thrift stores, Craig’s List, local mom swap groups on Facebook or other social media, library book sales, and kid’s resale/consignment shops. The Savers in my area offers ‘buy 4 books, get 1 free’ deals, and the Once Upon A Child near me has a ‘buy 5 books, get 5 free’ policy. You can save a ton off the cover prices if you check places like these early and often. But don’t wait until the last day of November to start hunting for deals- they’re going to be pretty picked over by then!

4. Consider a swap. 
Do you have friends or family members who are also interested in starting this tradition in their homes? Consider getting together each year, the more the merrier* to trade books. Make some decisions as a group before hand… Will you only swap holiday themed books, or does any topic go? Do you get to leave with the same number you came with? Who chooses first or is it a free for all? This is a great way to both save some cash on the 25 books you’ll need to make this countdown possible AND cut down on the books you have to store in your home. (I know, for some people, too many books are a possibility. I can’t say I understand, but I promise, I’m not judging you!)
[*Get it?! Merrier?! Christmas?! Ha ha ha, puns are the best!]

red holiday books

5. Check out your local library.
A short term free ‘rental’ of 25 books is a great way to keep your costs down, and also minimize how much new ‘stuff’ will be staying in your home- especially during the holidays when you know tons of new toys and gifts will be on their way shortly. The library will have access to a wide variety of books on any topic, and you’ll have a great selection of books celebrating all the winter holidays to choose from. You’re likely able to check the catalog online and even place holds on titles you know you’ll want so that you can just walk in and grab them. [Although in my opinion, wandering the stacks is part of the fun]. Keep a list in a safe place of all 25 books you have out and when they are due back, so that you’re less likely to accrue late fines or misplace books. Renew online if you need to, and be sure not to mix the books in on your regular shelves.


Have you ever participated in the 25 Books of Christmas with your families? What were some of  your kids favorite books to receive? I’d love to hear about it, and get some book ideas for our countdown next year! Let me know your suggestions in the comments!

Want to know which books my boys will be unwrapping this December? Follow me on Instagram to get daily updates of what we’re reading together each evening!

You can find some fabulous lists of great books for wee ones right here!
If you’re in the market for some clever & creatives ideas to make your holidays more festive, this is the place for you!


  • Nichole Snellgrove

    I absolutely love this! I think I’m a little too behind to do it this year, but I would love to try it for next year! Thanks for sharing and great idea!

    • Kate

      Thanks so much for checking it out Nichole! I hope you’re able to use this idea next year, and have as much fun with it as we do!

  • Chrissa - Physical Kitchness

    How adorable is that book tree?!? I’ve been wanting to do this tradition ever since my son was born. Now that he is two and starting to take interest in books, I’ll have to stock up on Christmas reads!! SO FUN!

    • Kate

      I hope you and your son have a great time with it, Chrissa! We’ve loved sharing this tradition with our oldest the last few years.

  • Rebekah | My Circus, My Monkeys

    I love it! I don’t wrap them, but we ALWAYS check out Christmas books from the library! I also purchase a few new (used) ones each year to add to our personal collection.

    • Kate

      Love this! What are some of your family’s go-to holiday reads, Rebekah?

  • Rebecca Hicks

    This is such a cute idea! I love how you stacked the books to look like a Christmas tree. <3

    • Kate

      Thank you so much, Rebecca! I wrap them differently each year, but loved the shiny green paper this year- it just screamed ‘Christmas tree’ at me!

  • Rachel

    What a great idea! I don’t have kids but this is definitely something I’d do if I did!

    • Kate

      So glad you like the idea, Rachel! Thank you!

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