Every year in Iceland, Christmas is spent the same way, drinking hot chocolate and reading. The tradition has a name: Jolabokaflod.
Just imagine this: it’s Christmas Eve, and after you got a brand new book for Christmas, you curl up on the sofa or in front of the fireplace with a mug of hot chocolate and spend the whole evening reading.
Sounds pretty ideal, right? Well, this is exactly how Icelanders celebrate Christmas every year. This tradition is called Jolabokaflod, which can roughly be translated as a stream of Christmas books.
Jolabokaflod is a tradition that began after World War II, because paper was one of the few things in Iceland that was not limited by head rations. Because of this, Icelanders began to give books as gifts, since there was hardly anything else to get hold of. Thus, the entire nation quickly became a society of bookworms.
According to a 2013 study by Bifröst University, 50 percent of Icelanders read more than 8 books a year, and 93 percent read at least one.
“The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday,” explains Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Icelandic Publishers Association.
“Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland,” he added.
Since 1944, Icelandic booksellers have sent a flyer to every household in mid-November announcing when the Reykjavík Book Fair is being held.
People take this opportunity to buy books for their family and friends for Christmas. And on Christmas Eve, after opening the packages, everyone grabs a mug of hot chocolate and dives into their newly acquired books.