Here’s a beef that I have with the church at large. Jesus did not have blue eyes. Jesus did not even have pink might be slightly tan skin. This should be pretty basic. Jesus was not white.
I mean, Jesus is never portrayed as a woman so that women can “relate” to him so why do we need to portray him as white so that an eensy minority of the church can relate to him? He was an actual person you can’t just change the “details” to suit your preferences.
So yes, all that to say, it annoys me that I have to search to find a Jesus that is not white because Jesus was not white. Usually it’s “lucky” if one of the three wise men is non-white. Uh-huh. I’m sure that’s *exactly* how that scene played out. (insert big eye roll) Having an ethnic representation of Jesus shouldn’t be a “thing” it should just be Christmas.
On the other hand (spoiler alert), Santa is NOT a real person and there he can be black or anything else you want him to be. Also, black families celebrate Christmas too and do all the other Christmas pageantry and I want that to be represented in our book selection as well.
However, it is a thing and so looking for appropriate Christmas stuff can be a challenge. This Christmas I put myself on a mission to buy some Christmas books where Baby Jesus doesn’t look like he was born in a stable in Indiana, but also shows black families celebrating Christmas and a black Santa. To that end, here are the books that I’ve found. (Affiliate links!)
This one has no white people at all (imagine that). Most of the characters including Mary and Baby Jesus are a lovely shade of brown. My biggest gripe with this book is that a) I don’t want to say pa-rum-pa-pum-pum all the time and b) who lets someone play a drum for their newborn? ;) But hey, it’s Ezra J Keats so I won’t quibble about it.
This one uses Biblical text to tell the story and very cartoony pictures. It shows Mary getting more and more pregnant and a funny two page spread about Joseph trying to hoist her up on a donkey. It also shows a very naked Baby Jesus. The skin tones in this book are all olive-y with dark hair.
This is The Night Before Christmas illustrated by Rachel Isadora. Her artwork is just beautiful and I love to look at it. She has taken the familiar poem and transported it to Africa complete with snow, palm trees, an African family in traditional clothes, and a black Santa with locs. There’s nothing not to love about this book.
Similarly, in the 12 Days of Christmas she’s taken the obnoxious song and made it awesome by taking it to Africa. I have to say it again, that these pictures are just stunning. This book is done partially as a rebus so when each day is recounted there is just a small picture with the appropriate number representing it instead of all the text. It’s very cute. At the end of the book she references inspiration from Mali, Ghana, Nigeria, South Africa, and Swaziland for specific illustrations that she used.
I loved the text in “This is the Stable”. It follows the style of “The House that Jack Built”, but is a very gentle and soothing text, almost like a lullaby. I’m not sure what technique was used with the pictures, but they are really beautiful as well. The family in this story are a soft brown and very tenderly done.
“A Child is Born” was written by Margaret Wise Brown (of “Goodnight Moon” fame) and illustrated by Floyd Cooper. The text isn’t my favorite, it seems a little lofty for children, but it’s sweet. The illustrations in this book pretty clearly depict a black Holy Family and black angels as well.