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Jolabokaflod: The Icelandic Tradition of Giving Books on Christmas Eve

All you need is a cup of hot chocolate.

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Photography by: Bryan Gardner

If you're a lover of literature, you will want to add this idea to your holiday traditions. Jolabokaflod is a wintertime tradition loved by Icelanders across the world. What is it exactly? The English translation of Jolabokaflod is "the Christmas Book Flood." On Christmas Eve, you'll find most Icelanders snuggled in with a cup of something warm all doing the same thing: reading a book.

 

The premise is simple: Gift a new book to someone you love. This book-gifting tradition dates back to World War II, when paper was one of the few items you could actually find in abundance. Given that other products and gifts were few and far between, Icelanders made the best of the situation and gave each other books to enjoy. In addition to spending Christmas Eve tucked in with a good book, Icelanders will often enjoy hot chocolate or jolabland (a non-alcoholic holiday ale) with their page-turners. 

 

[EXPERIENCE: 7 One-of-a-Kind Christmas Traditions from Around the World]

The country's book publishers have taken note on the holiday popularly in book sales. You may also see Jólabókaflóðið referenced as the annual release of new titles in Iceland, which has now turned into a seasonal tradition for the publishing industry. There's even an official Jolabokaflod catalog sent to every house in Iceland in November, called the Bókatíðindi, or "Book Bulletin," which lists out popular books and new releases that they can order. Think of it as a Scholastic book fair, brought straight to your home.

 

Iceland isn't the only country known for a seasonal surge in new book releases; France has a similar trend called Le rentrée littéraire. But there's something about the thought of beating the arctic temperatures outside by settling in with a big blanket, hot chocolate, your favorite album, and a good book. In fact, we like to think of that as the picture you'll find next to the dictionary definition of "hygge." (Don't hold us to that.)

 

Feeling inspired? Watch how to wrap a gift with a beautiful bow: