Saturday, December 23, 2017

A New Christmas Tradition

I recently came across an Iceland Christmas tradition and right away asked Josh if we could incorporate it into our family traditions each year. He sweetly agreed. My parents have already been gifting a new book to each of their kids for a few Christmases now but I adore the idea of Josh and I exchanging a new (or old) book every Christmas Eve and passing that tradition along to our children one day. I am completely, ridiculously sentimental so adding special, unique holiday traditions brings my heart joy. 

In Iceland, every Christmas Eve, family and friends gift each other with a book and then spend the rest of the evening reading and sipping hot cocoa. This tradition is so well-known in the country that it is affectionately called Jólabókaflóð, which translates roughly into English as the "Christmas book flood". 

This tradition began in 1944 during World War II. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war, so Icelanders shared their love of books even more as other types of gifts were in short supply. This increase in giving books as presents reinforced Iceland’s culture as a nation of bookaholics. 

Every year since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has published a catalogue called Bókatíðindi that is sent to every household in the country in November during the Reykjavík Book Fair. People use the catalogue to order books to give friends and family for Christmas.

Blame it on the weather, but the people in Iceland are generally big readers. According to a study conducted by Bifröst University in 2013, 50 percent of Icelanders read at least eight books per year, while 93 percent read at least one. According to a BBC article, “The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. One in every ten citizens will publish a book during their lifetime."

Personally frowning upon e-books and kindles, I love the fact that physical books are such a treasured gift. No one in Iceland gives e-books at Christmastime. 

This is one holiday tradition that I can get on board with and look forward to continuing in our family for future generations. 


  1. That is such a great tradition! I've never heard of it before.
    My aunt was a teacher and she always used to give us each a new book at Christmas time. And, we all readers in my family- many of the gifts I am giving to my family this year are books, and I always have books on my own "wish list" too. :)

    1. Books are some of the best gifts! I love receiving them and giving them! :)