Jolabokaflod…the “Christmas Book Flood”


Dear Reader:

I inadvertently came across a wonderful Christmas Eve tradition that I fell in love with…I couldn’t wait ’til Christmas to share it with you. It is called Jolabokaflod…loosely translated into English meaning “Christmas Book Flood.” It takes place in Iceland.

I thought the idea was so good…would love to do this in our family this Christmas and start a tradition of book giving. Here is the story behind this amazing night of reading, books, and chocolate!

Source: “Why Icelanders Spend Every Christmas Eve Reading Books and Drinking Cocoa”

Imagine this: It’s Christmas Eve and after receiving a brand-new book from your family, you wrap yourself up in a blanket in front of the fire with a mug of hot cocoa and spend the rest of the evening reading.

That’s exactly how Icelandic people celebrate Christmas each year. This tradition is known as Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to “Christmas book flood” in English.

Jolabokaflod started during World War II, when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. Because of this, Icelanders gave books as gifts while other commodities were in short supply, turning them into a country of bookaholics to this day, according to In fact, a 2013 study conducted at Bifröst University found that 50 percent of Icelanders read more than eight 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,” Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, told NPR. “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.”

Ever since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has sent out a book bulletin to each household in the middle of November when the Reykjavik Book Fair happens. People use this catalog to order books to give to their friends and family on Christmas Eve, the main gift-giving day in Iceland. After all the presents are open, everyone grabs a cup of hot chocolate and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading their books.

This “book worm” loves the idea…however, I then thought that Christmas Eve for me is telling a story… not reading one personally…and that is a wonderful tradition too…because I get to share the story with others.

Of course I also love the history behind the creation of this Icelandic Christmas tradition…it once again reminds me that out of the worst catastrophes like WWII…good this Christmas tradition can take root and grow.

Iceland has gotten to be one of the fastest growing “hot spots” for tourists in the past few years…especially young people. Luke and Chelsey are going to Iceland on vacation next month in September…(*I know Iceland is relieved no one wants to buy it…so far. 🙂

So until tomorrow…”There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.”

“Today is my favorite day”  Winnie the Pooh

*I was up bright and early Saturday morning to run to the store to get ingredients to make Marcia and Bruce Brook’s famous sausage and cheese dip…one of the few dishes I still remember how to make…I cooked it and ran it over to Mt. Pleasant. Mollie’s parents are holding down the fort while Walsh works and Mollie is in Nashville at a Beauty Counter Conference.

It was so good to see both of them, especially Bruce since I have missed him the last few visits…but now he is a retired man and has become the new owner of the most enduring, precious real estate in life…time! Congrats Bruce!!!! 🙂

*Speaking of reading I thought I would have my new Louise Penny detective book to read this weekend but somehow I never pre-ordered her latest novel…how did I manage to do that?….I have to wait until Tuesday now to get it from Thank goodness I am already reading another of Jean Grainger’s Irish books…and that should last me until my “beloved Gamache” returns home to me Tuesday!!!

*Speaking of returning home…Mollie’s plane was scheduled to land back in Charleston around midnight last night and then Marcia and Bruce flew back early this morning around 6:00 a.m.- busy night. Nashville tells Mollie good-bye!


About Becky Dingle

I was born a Tarheel but ended up a Sandlapper. My grandparents were cotton farmers in Laurens, South Carolina and it was in my grandmother’s house that my love of storytelling began beside an old Franklin stove. When I graduated from Laurens High School, I attended Erskine College (Due West of what?) and would later get my Masters Degree in Education/Social Studies from Charleston Southern. I am presently an adjunct professor/clinical supervisor at CSU and have also taught at the College of Charleston. For 28 years I taught Social Studies through storytelling. My philosophy matched Rudyard Kipling’s quote: “If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” Today I still spread this message through workshops and presentations throughout the state. The secret of success in teaching social studies is always in the story. I want to keep learning and being surprised by life…it is the greatest teacher. Like Kermit said, “When you’re green you grow, when you’re ripe you rot.”
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2 Responses to Jolabokaflod…the “Christmas Book Flood”

  1. What a great idea. I am afraid that reading for the pure joy of learning. My students look at me as if I am losing my mind when I suggest reading articles not to be covered on tests, that we will discuss. It is do frustrating. Iceland, here I come! Not.


    • Becky Dingle says:

      Too cute! Though Iceland is where the Danes go on vacation and warmer than Greenland…ice over green…quite the oxymoron isn’t it….yes Iceland puts us to shame with literacy and reading….we need to put down the tech gadgets and open up the books.


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