Our Favorite Holiday Tradition: Iceland's Christmas Book Flood

Posted by Hayley on December 21, 2017


In our perfect world, every present underneath the Christmas tree would be a book. Alas, most of us must prepare ourselves for disappointment (likely in the form of socks). But there's another way! This year take a page from Iceland's book and celebrate Jólabókaflóð.

What is Jólabókaflóð—and how do you pronounce it? The Icelandic word translates roughly into English as "Christmas book flood" and is pronounced yo-la-bok-a-flot. It refers to the country's traditional publishing peak: The majority of books in Iceland are sold between late September and early November, just in time for the holidays.

And the best part of Jólabókaflóð happens on Christmas Eve. "The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday," says Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association. "Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading."

That sounds like holiday perfection to us. Now we just have to convince our family members and friends to embrace the magic of Jólabókaflóð. Here are some of Goodreads members' favorite books to read during the holidays to get you started.

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Do you have any bookish holiday traditions? Share them with us in the comments!

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Comments Showing 1-27 of 27 (27 new)

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message 1: by Valerie (new)

Valerie I do this with my gift list. It is the best!


message 2: by Brenda (new)

Brenda Sounds like a dream come true!! Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Since I have been recently collecting Nordi/Scandi Noir on my TBR, I particularly enjoyed learning of this fabulous festivity.

Joyous Jolabokaflod to All!!


message 3: by Beth (new)

Beth Paine Every Christmas season I would buy my kids one new holiday themed book. Then on Christmas Eve we would gather in my oldest child's bed (it was the biggest of the three kids) with mugs of hot chocolate and the books. Each child would pick their favorite for that year and we would have a read aloud just before bed. And I always finished with my favorite, "Twas the Night Before Christmas". Then lights out to wait for Santa. We have done this for the past 18 years and will continue the tradition this year even though my kids are now 18, 20, and 23!


message 4: by Megan (new)

Megan Rupp Holidays on Ice is the Daily Deal today on Audible!


message 5: by GypsyBookworm (new)

GypsyBookworm Beth wrote: "Every Christmas season I would buy my kids one new holiday themed book. Then on Christmas Eve we would gather in my oldest child's bed (it was the biggest of the three kids) with mugs of hot chocol..."

That is so sweet! Merry Christmas to you and your beautiful family.


message 6: by Panalopy (new)

Panalopy This sounds like a lovely tradition.


message 7: by Dianna (new)

Dianna For years, my family has been reading on New Year's Eve to ring in the new year. For snacks, we eat "weird fruit:" all the unusual varieties of fruit the grocery store has to offer.


message 8: by Janice (new)

Janice Bolick Beautiful tradition. Would love to visit Iceland, one day. Merry Christmas.


message 9: by Regina (new)

Regina Thanks for the pronunciation.
This reading tradition is one I have tried to embrace for the past few years.


message 10: by D.B. (new)

D.B. Shayne What a wonderful tradition!


message 11: by V9poker (new)

V9poker that's the christmas spirit. great tradition


message 12: by Diane (new)

Diane Davis I,m all for this tradition.we will have to get more readers in our family.


message 13: by Susannah (last edited Dec 22, 2017 07:52PM) (new)

Susannah My favourite Christmas tradition is one my Mom started when we were young. To keep us in bed Christmas morning to a decent hour she gave each of us a book. Our "wake me up book" was wrapped, with a new ornament and beside our bed when we went to sleep Christmas Eve. No matter what time we woke up we were allowed to unwrap it and read in bed until she felt it was a good time to go downstairs. Not knowing how much she still had to do to help Santa, I guess it bought her a bit more sleep 😂 The added bonus....when we each moved out we had a full tree of ornaments. Fifty odd years later I do it with my kids as so many within my extended family.


message 14: by Laura (new)

Laura LVD When i was young my grandparents lived across the street from the railroad tracks. We would put a table with drinks and sweets near the tracks and when the first train on Christmas Eve passed by we waved and toasted to the people who were working aboard the train and they would greet back with the train whistle and waving their hands. The tradition lasted for more than 35 years until my grandparents passed away in the early 2000s.


message 15: by J. Sebastian (new)

J. Sebastian Beth wrote: "Every Christmas season I would buy my kids one new holiday themed book. Then on Christmas Eve we would gather in my oldest child's bed (it was the biggest of the three kids) with mugs of hot chocol..."

This is lovely. Merry Christmas. :-)


message 16: by Cody (new)

Cody I must be part Icelandic :D


message 17: by Pam (new)

Pam Carmichael So many great ideas here for Christmas, love it!!


message 18: by Elisabeth (new)

Elisabeth S. That's probably one of the best holiday traditions I've heard of.


message 19: by Leonard (new)

Leonard Roberts Interesting, I wasn't aware of that context. I guess it makes some sense, thanks for the history lesson!
usps tracking


Linhkiendienthoai Bak I got an tattoo in my body with a Icelandic word cuz i love this country so much. Thank for this idea. I did it for last chrismast. And this is great.
màn hình wing


message 21: by Pam (new)

Pam Carmichael Susannah wrote: "My favourite Christmas tradition is one my Mom started when we were young. To keep us in bed Christmas morning to a decent hour she gave each of us a book. Our "wake me up book" was wrapped, with a..."

So love this idea!!!


message 22: by Susannah (new)

Susannah Thanks! ❤️


message 23: by Pam (new)

Pam Carmichael You are so welcome


message 24: by Janice (new)

Janice Bolick Still love this tradition...I love books.


message 25: by Janice (new)

Janice Bolick Still love the idea of this beautiful tradition.


message 26: by Helen (new)

Helen Oren JEE Main exam will be conducted twice from 2019 onwards – in January and April. However, marks of only one attempt (the best score) will be considered for making the merit list for the exam. The newly formed National Testing Agency will be conducting the JEE Main exam. It is conducted for getting admission to UG Engineering courses offered by IIITs, NITs, and other Centrally Funded Technical Institutions.


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