Happy Jólabókaflóðið! (The Icelandic “Christmas Book Flood”)

For most people in the United States, the end of Thanksgiving signifies the start of Black Friday. Over 70 years since its inception, Americans have flocked to malls across the nation in search of slashed prices on all kinds of goods. Consumerism has skyrocketed and the holidays have become less about family and togetherness and more about shopping.

Meanwhile, in Iceland, Jólabókaflóðið (the "Christmas Book Flood") the tradition of giving your loved one a book for the holidays, has endured for nearly 80 years. Family and friends gift each other with books and stay up late on Christmas Eve to read them. During World War II, paper was one of the few items that wasn't rationed. Due to this, people started to give each other books for the holidays, and the tradition has thrived since.  

Each year the Icelandic publishing industry sends a Bókatíðindi (book bulletin) to help people choose which books to give as gifts during the Reykjavik Book Fair. What better way to choose from countless books than to send a newsletter during the nation’s biggest book celebration? 

In a country where literature has also been at the heart of its foundation, I think we could learn a lesson from this age-old tradition: to spend less time caught up in the shopping sprees and more time finding that one book that your recipient would stay up all night to read. It's less about the amount of money you spend on the book, but rather the reason why you chose it. Do you have a friend who loves to bake? Is your sibling a huge Swiftie? Does your co-worker love reading cozy murder mysteries? There's a book for everyone!

We at HCPL have the pleasure of offering FREE books, audiobooks, e-books, and more to everyone everyday of every year! If you want to read that book before you gift it, there's a good chance we have what you're looking for in our catalog. You can browse new releases, award-winners, and more here. If you want to start a new holiday tradition, try participating in Jólabókaflóðið.

Learn more about Jólabókaflóðið here

Learn about holiday traditions around the world and closer to home past and present or get ideas for new ones of your own.

The Christmas Book Flood

African-American Holiday Traditions


The Latino Holiday Book

Totally Kosher

The Book of New Family Traditions (Revised and Updated)

Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas

The Old Magic of Christmas

And many more here