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A Holiday Dedicated to Books

by on December 19, 2017

Librarians, what if I told you that in addition to the popular winter holidays, there is a holiday (for lack of a better term) dedicated to the sale, purchase, and reading of books? I kid you not. The tradition of Jólabókaflóð comes from Iceland, and is pronounced yo-la-bok-a-flot, which translates to Yule Book Flood.[i] Books are bought and gifted to others the day before Christmas. Traditionally, that night, the book/s you were gifted are read while drinking your favorite beverage of choice until you fall asleep. Mine would probably be either a glass of red wine or a cup of hot cocoa.

I first heard of this tradition last year when a friend visited Iceland. In Iceland, books are only published at the end of the year.[ii] Icelandic publishing companies put together a catalog of books, which is perused by shoppers, and is the de facto source of Jólabókaflóð merchandise and gifting inspiration.[iii]

The practice of Jólabókaflóð came into being during WWII. During this time, paper imported from other countries had fewer restrictions than other materials, which led to books becoming a gifting staple.[iv] Jólabókaflóð has since cemented itself in Icelandic culture, and is slowly gaining attention in other countries for its peculiar and awesome message.

The tradition is perfect for those who do not practice a mainstream holiday and can be used for library outreach services. A Jólabókaflóð display featuring recommended end of the year reads, and possibly a historical handout, will surely generate buzz around your library, and inspire others to adopt Jólabókaflóð as a new yearly tradition.


[i] https://www.tor.com/2017/11/30/jolabokaflod-iceland-book-flood-christmas-tradition/

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Ibid.

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