Best Bookish Traditions: Iceland’s Christmas Book Flood

Iceland is more than a place of thermal springs and the strongest man in the world; it’s home to the bookish holiday tradition Jolabokaflod, or Christmas Book Flood.

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When your country is a small island nestled at the edge of the Arctic Circle, what better to do during the holidays than snuggle up with your family to exchange books? Icelanders have a word for the tradition: Jolabokaflod, or the Christmas Book Flood.


According to an article by Country LivingIceland acquired its bookish holiday tradition during World War II. Limited in the range of gifts they could give on Christmas due to rationing, the Icelandic population resorted to books since they were one of the few items still abundant on the island. This tradition played an important role in turning Iceland into one of the most bookish countries in the world. Country Living stated, “a 2013 study…found that 50 percent of Icelanders read more than eight books a year and 93 percent read at least one.” 


The tradition of Jolabokaflod involves more than just books. Hot cocoa is enjoyed as the presents are exchanged on Christmas Eve. Rather than going to bed and waking the next morning to open gifts, families stay up to read the books they received from each other.

If you’re bookish and looking for a way to incorporate your love of the literary into your Christmas celebration, look no further than the plucky Nordic island at the doorstep to the far north.

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