Skip to content

Have Yourself a Merry Little Jolabokaflod

The Icelandic Christmas tradition of snuggling up with books and chocolate might be the best way to celebrate pretty much...anything.

Sarah Burns

GettyImages-956869578

Getty

Ah, the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Running around stores trying to snag the perfect gifts for everyone on your list, stocking the fridge full of holiday food favorites, hearing “All I Want for Christmasssss is Youuuuuu” wafting through the cinnamon-scented air somehow in literally every establishment you enter. 

Maybe we should consider just ... slowing down for a moment. That's where the Icelandic Christmas tradition of Jolabokaflod can help: The most frantically festive families will benefit from a time-out during this fast-paced, high-pressure holiday, and already-low-key revelers will take to it with ease. Learn more about this amazing Icelandic tradition — including how to pronounce it — and discover our favorite books to give this season.

What is Jolabokaflod?

Relaxing with Book and Hot Choc

Getty

Jolabokaflod — roughly pronounced Yola-bokah-flowed — translates to “Yule (or Christmas) Book Flood." It’s the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on the night of Christmas Eve. The rest of the evening is then devoted to reading your new book, and drinking hot cocoa. These days, Icelandic gift-givers typically offer chocolate treats as presents for Jolabokaflod along with a new page-turner.

How did Jolabokaflod originate?

Gift Books with Mug

Getty

This particular tradition came out of World War II in 1944, shortly after Iceland gained its independence from Denmark. As part of the war effort, many commodities we normally take for granted were heavily rationed, but the restrictions on paper weren’t as limited. As a result, books quickly became the fashionable gift of choice — and what better way to enjoy a new book than with a sweet treat like hot cocoa? 

Why do people celebrate Jolabokaflod?

Girl Holding Gift Books

Getty

There is a saying in Iceland: “Ad ganga med bok I maganum,"  or “Everyone gives birth to a book.” Literature is a really big deal in Iceland. They publish more books per capita than any other country in the world, with one in 10 Icelanders publishing a book in their lifetime. Thanks to the internet and social media, bookworms around the globe have been able to learn about and happily adopt the Jolabokaflod tradition to share it with their friends and families. 

Why should EVERYONE do Jolabokaflod?

Boy Reading

Getty

Books are awesome! Plus, it’s a cozy, low-key way to take a little holiday time-out. All through the season, we’re pulled from holiday parties, to work gift exchanges, to ugly sweater brunches. We drive ourselves bonkers trying to find the perfect gifts for loved ones, teachers, delivery workers. We go out of our way to do a little something special for the people in our lives we appreciate — but we have so very little time and energy left over for ourselves, and our families.

Jolabokaflod is a festive way to pump the brakes on the holiday. Take a moment to get cozy, slow down for quality time with a new story, and to savor chocolate melting on your tongue. 

That sounds wonderful! How can I celebrate Jolabokaflod with family and friends?

GettyImages-1340992875

Getty

From cooking and DIYs, to activity books filled with puzzles and drawing inspiration, to immersive story books that leave readers hanging on every word — the best thing about books is there’s a subject out there for everyone. Choose a topic that best suits your giftee, wrap it up with a chocolate treat, then tuck in for a cozy gift exchange, and a cozy evening filled with new stories.

Here’s a guide to some of CAMP’s favorite Book Flood gifts!

For Baby’s First Jolabokaflod

 Rawpixel / Getty Images

Rawpixel / Getty Images

You don’t need to know how to read to enjoy a good book. Try a stunning picture book full of vibrant colors, and a sturdy, board book construction to help little hands master the whole page-turning-thing. 

Inspiring Books for Your Baby's First Book Shelf

For Parents Who Love Reading to the Kids

Reading to Kids at Christmas

Getty

Your child’s favorite author might just be your favorite celebrity! They entertain you on TV, film, and late night talk shows — so why not in a children’s book too? 

8 Kids’ Books Written By Your Favorite Celebrities

For Anyone Who Loves a Great Story

kids books to give as gifts

Getty

When you’re caught up in a good book, time loses meaning, and the outside world just fades away. Find a book that’s perfect for a storytime, any time. 

18 Books That Make Perfect Gifts For Anyone Who Loves Storytime

For Kids Who “Don’t Like to Read”

image1

Getty

Yes, there are books for people like that! Filled with puzzles, mazes, jokes, and stickers, these are pages even non-book lovers will be thrilled to receive. 

Our Favorite Activity Books Keep Kids Busy for Hours

For the Avid Reader Who Wants to be a Writer

Feeling the cool, literary blood of an Icelander running through your veins? Be like the one in 10, and get that story out of you with one of these gifts designed to inspire young writers into action!

12 Must-Have Gifts for the Aspiring Young Writer in Your Family

And Don't Forget the Chocolate!