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  • Writer's pictureScandinavian Travel

Embracing the Warmth of Jolabokaflod: Iceland's Cherished Book Tradition


In the heart of Iceland's festive season lies a tradition as warm and inviting as a crackling fireplace on a snowy evening. This tradition, known as Jolabokaflod, or the "Christmas Book Flood," is a celebration of literature and togetherness that has captivated the hearts of Icelanders and, increasingly, book lovers around the world.

What is the meaning of Jolabokaflod?

Jolabokaflod, translating roughly to "Christmas Book Flood" in English, is a unique Icelandic tradition that combines the joy of giving with the love of reading. It's a cultural phenomenon where books are exchanged as gifts on Christmas Eve, and the night is spent in reading and warmth. 

This tradition is not just about gifting but about fostering a deep connection with literature and loved ones.

Woman Reading

What Is the Story of Jolabokaflod?

The roots of Jolabokaflod date back to World War II, a time when Iceland gained independence from Denmark in 1944. During this period, paper was one of the few commodities not rationed, making books an accessible and cherished gift. 

This era marked the beginning of Iceland's identity as a nation of book lovers. Since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has published a catalog, Bókatíðindi, sent to every household to order books for Christmas.

When is Jolabokaflod celebrated?

Jolabokaflod is celebrated on Christmas Eve, December 24th. This is when the magic of this tradition unfolds, as Icelanders exchange books and spend the evening immersed in new stories, often accompanied by hot chocolate or jólabland, a special Christmas ale.

Christmas Book Tradition

What are the rules of Jolabokaflod?

The essence of Jolabokaflod lies in its simplicity and warmth. The main rule is the exchange of books and dedicating the evening to reading and sharing stories. 

It's a time for families and friends to gather, slow down, and enjoy the pleasure of each other's company and good literature.

What kind of books are popular for Jolabokaflod?

There's no strict rule about the type of books given during Jolabokaflod. From novels and cookbooks to children's books and textbooks, any book that can spark joy and interest is a perfect choice. 

The diversity of books reflects the varied interests of the recipients, making each gift a personal and thoughtful gesture.

Icelandic Jolabokaflod

Why is Jolabokaflod so special?

Jolabokaflod is more than a tradition; it's a reflection of Iceland's cultural fabric. It embodies the nation's love for stories and the value placed on spending quality time with loved ones. 

This tradition has not only survived but thrived, evolving into a global phenomenon that inspires people worldwide to reconnect with the joy of reading and the warmth of togetherness.

Iceland Christmas Traditions Books: A Gateway to Cultural Immersion

For travelers seeking a deeper understanding of Icelandic culture, delving into books about Iceland's Christmas traditions offers a window into the soul of this enchanting island. 

These books often explore the rich tapestry of Icelandic folklore, cuisine, and customs, providing a comprehensive and engaging guide to the country's festive celebrations.

Icelandic Book


Jolabokaflod is more than a festive tradition; it's a reflection of Iceland's enduring love affair with books. It's a celebration that brings people together, fostering a sense of community and shared joy in the power of stories. As this tradition continues to capture hearts worldwide, it serves as a reminder of the simple yet profound pleasures of reading and companionship. 

Whether you're nestled in a cozy Icelandic home or adventuring across the island in a campervan, Jolabokaflod invites you to pause, read, and connect with the world and each other in the most magical way. 

Renting a campervan from Camper Rental Iceland offers the perfect opportunity to journey through this beautiful country at your own pace.

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