The Icelandic Tradition You Should Try For An Even Cozier Holiday Season

How do you plan to celebrate the holiday season this year? If you're ready to try something new, let yourself be inspired by Jólabókaflóð, or the "book flood before Christmas." This centuries-old tradition plays a pivotal role in Icelandic culture, according to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Digital Library. As it turns out, Icelanders give each other books as holiday gifts and read them with their loved ones on Christmas Eve.

Scandinavian countries have distinct traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation. For example, Danish people make themselves cozy around the holiday season — and everything they do revolves around hygge, a concept that dates back to the 1800s. Hygge is all about creating a warm, relaxing atmosphere where families and friends can spend time together and take joy in the little things. On a similar note, Swedes spend Christmas day watching Disney cartoons from the '60s and decorating their homes for extra coziness.

The Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóði has been around since World War II. Back then, paper was one of the few goods available to the masses, which nurtured people's love for books. Even today, more than half of Icelanders read approximately eight books per year. This wonderful tradition might be exactly what you need to get into the holiday spirit and find inner peace. 

Jólabókaflóð, the holiday tradition that will revive your love of reading

Jólabókaflóð, or Jolabokaflod, celebrates the joy of reading. Also known as the "Yule Book Flood," this Icelandic tradition is similar to the concept of hygge, revolving around the small things that bring true happiness. The idea behind it is pretty simple: People exchange books and then read them around the Christmas tree or while snuggling on the sofa, explains the UK's National Literacy Trust.

Icelanders begin the preparations for Jólabókaflóð in October each year. Publishers release new titles, libraries promote themselves in the media, and writers go to bookstores to engage with their fans, notes the UNESCO Digital Library. For example, the Reykjavik Book Fair, an annual event, has a strong focus on the Yule Book Flood, offering activities for all ages. Those few months before Christmas are all about reading.

However, it doesn't have to be Christmas to celebrate this tradition and incorporate it into your life. Icelanders actually read and publish more books than any other country in the world, according to the BBC. So, if you're ready to jump on the bandwagon, head over to the local bookstore or blow the dust off your Kindle and take your pick. Alternatively, create a reading challenge for your family or join a book club. Or you can simply think of reading as "me" time and plan a cozy night in with your favorite book.