The Christmas season is such a rush of events, shopping, decorating, wrapping, prepping, cooking and socializing, that it can feel rushed and stressful. End the wind-up to the season with the peaceful and indulgent Christmas eve Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóðið.
What is Jólabókaflóðið?
The phonetic pronunciation of Jolabokaflod is yo-la-bok-a-flot, and it’s a holiday tradition that you’ve been missing. Imagine Christmas Eve as a peaceful and cozy night with chocolate, warm beverages, and books…
Jólabókaflóðið translates roughly into English as ‘the Christmas book flood’.
The tradition began during World War II when Iceland gained independence from Denmark. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war. This left books as one of the few gifts to easily give, and increased love of reading across the country.
Since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has published a catalogue of new releases that is sent to every household in the country in mid-November during the Reykjavik Book Fair. People order books from the catalogue to give friends and family for Christmas.
Gifts are exchanged on December 24, and after the presents are open, everyone cozies up with some hot cocoa or other warm beverage to read the books they have been given.
How to start this Icelandic book tradition
Gather with friends or family and exchange books! They can be new books, used books, random exchange, secret exchange, or however you want to do it. If you are buying books we always recommend your local new or used bookstore!
Pick out (or make) some special chocolate, or warm up some hot cocoa, tea, or spiced warm beverage to enjoy. If you have a fireplace, this tradition practically demands that this is all enjoyed in front of a cozy fire. Otherwise, cozy blankets on the couch will suffice.
Get your holiday wrapping done in advance (I’m looking at you, parents….including myself), so that you can enjoy this as the last things on Christmas Eve.
If it’s easier to do it on Christmas Day or other day to work around your holiday traditions, celebrate Jolabokaflod when it works for you.
Looking for another holiday tradition? Check out how we celebrate St. Nicholas Day.