Jolabokafodid: how this cosy Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition can help you feel festive, even in 2021

Jolabokaflodid: how this cosy Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition can help you feel festive, even in 2021

The festive spirit may feel a little more elusive in 2021, but the Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition of ‘jolabokaflodid’ could help solve your Christmas blues.

What is Christmas without traditions? Some are passed down through generations, while others are fun rituals forged throughout our lives. Whether they involve matching pyjamas, leaving decorating until the 24th or not giving presents at all, whatever form they take, they bring us comfort when we need it most.

And boy, do we need it now.

It’s undeniable that Christmas 2021 doesn’t seem to be turning out like we’d hoped. With rising Covid-19 cases and unclear guidance from the government, the December blues feel like they’re hitting harder than ever. To combat them, we’re craving cosiness, simplicity and a magical touch of festive spirit, however we can get it.

The truth is, nobody does making the most of the dark, gloomy season better than the Nordics and Scandinavians. Over the years, we’ve lifted from them the concepts of hygge, friluftsliv, and now, just in time for Christmas, we’re taking our cues from the Icelandic concept of ‘jolabokaflodid’.

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What is jolabokaflodid?

Translating roughly to “Christmas book flood” in English, jolabokaflodid refers to the Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve, then spending the evening reading, while sipping hot chocolate.

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According to an official jolabokaflodid website, the ritual began during the second world war after Iceland had gained its independence from Denmark in 1944. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war, so Icelanders shared their love of books as other types of gifts were in short supply.

During the festive season, gifts are opened on 24 December and, by tradition, everyone reads the books they have been given straight away, often while drinking hot chocolate or alcohol-free Christmas ale called jólabland.

Cosy Christmas goals indeed. And one festive ritual that the pandemic, thankfully, can’t get in the way of. 

So if you’re self-isolating, limiting contact or simply don’t want to face the outside world right now, why not try switching off the Christmas films in place of getting lost in a good book?

Looking for reading recommendations for the new year? Check out our guide to the best fiction and non-fiction books to order now for 2022.

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