A How-To Guide for Celebrating Iceland's Jólabókaflóðið ("the Christmas book flood")

What is Jólabókaflóðið?

Jólabókaflóðið (pronounced YO-la-bok-a-flothe & roughly translated into English as "the Christmas book flood") is a Christmas tradition that began during World War II in Iceland when paper was an imported product that was relatively easy to come by. Traditions vary from household to household, but the gist of the tradition is to give a book on Christmas Eve & then snuggle up with the new book and some chocolate to enjoy an evening of reading. 

During the holiday festivities that follow, conversational topics center around which new releases were best or worst, which had the most intriguing titles, which had the best cover art, etc.

This focus on giving books as presents has created a culture in Iceland of bookaholics - in other words, Pretty Literate people!

How to Share Jólabókaflóðið

You might be wondering, How do I participate in Jólabókaflóðið? What do I actually do?

The answer is simpler than you probably think.

  1. Buy a new book (one published in the current year).
  2. Pair it with some chocolate.
  3. Gift it to someone on Christmas Eve.

That's it!

Introduce Jólabókaflóðið

One of our members shared Jólabókaflóðið "fever" last year inside our Monthly Book Club and it was so spectacularly contagious that we decided to share it again this year! (Check your inbox for that email if you're a member of Pretty Literate's Book Club. And if you're not, you couldn't pick a better time to join us than now. Right now. Check us out here.)

If participating in Jólabókaflóðið appeals to you, too, here are several creative ways to make celebrating the Icelandic tradition contagious in your world...starting this year.

1. Hijack the Holiday

I love the way Guinevere de la Mare hijacked her family gathering last year - in the best possible way! She gamified Jólabókaflóðið and everyone had so much fun that her family is doing it again this year. If you've got a big family gathering on the calendar this December, this is a fun route to take.

Or, why not invite your family to take a more active roll by drawing names and either mailing or scheduling an in-person Jólabókaflóðið package delivery on Christmas Eve like my husband I did last year (see below)?

2. Get Inspired

I know the focus is on the books, but as a foodie I have to point out that chocolate is a component that should not be neglected. You can buy whatever chocolate confection suits your fancy (and there are a LOT of options out there this time of year!), but I encourage you to consider getting in the kitchen to create your own chocolatey gift made with an extra measure of L-O-V-E.

Personally, I glut on The Great British Bake Off every December to inspire my inner baker (I'm looking at you, traditional Yule log.), but if that's not your cuppa tea, why not try these super-simple ideas to get you cookin' for Jólabókaflóðið?

3. Hit the Road

Last year (2021), my husband and I spent time driving around to our kids' homes delivering the gift of Jólabókaflóðið to each and every one. Why not start a new Christmas Eve tradition of your own this year and flood your friends and family with in-person deliveries of books and chocolate for Christmas, too?

4. Go Postal

If you're unable to deliver your flood of books in person (see above), consider hiring the process out. The USPS updates their time frame for package delivery during the holidays and at the time of this blog they suggested allowing 8 days for delivery (though this may change, of course!). That means, in order to have your package delivered by Christmas Eve, the current deadline for shipping would be December 16, 2022. (No promises. I say the sooner you ship, the better.)

It has also never been easier to shop online than it is now. Did you know that even the goliaths of industry (like Amazon) will allow you to personalize the address label to indicate an "Open on" date? For example, when I mailed my sisters a certain something for us to all open together during our holly jolly Christmas party on Zoom this year, I personalized their "name" to include "Do not open until..." so that they wouldn't accidentally (or on purpose!) open their packages prematurely.

And you could do the same for your Jólabókaflóðið deliveries!

5. Be Creative!

Look for creative ways to share your love of literature this holiday season.

Do you have a Little Free Library? Wrap the books, tape an individually packaged chocolate bar to each one, and invite your neighbors to participate in Jólabókaflóðið by visiting your Little Free Library. Take it up a notch by snaping a pic and posting the photo on Next Door. Invite your community to stop by your Little Free Library to help themselves to some Jólabókaflóðið fun.


Do you Jólabókaflóðið?

If you participate in Iceland's Flood of Books (or just love to give books at Christmas!), you need to join me for Pretty Literate Live on Monday (December 5, 2022) for some fun, easy, creative ways to wrap books! 

Have you participated in Jólabókaflóðið in the past? Inspire us by sharing what you did in the comments below.


  • While celebrating this tradition after learning of it a few years ago, I thoroughly enjoy it. I love Christmas, books, chocolate, the spirit and to snuggle up with a book and some joy chocolate and chocolate treats is just pure joy. I look forward to browsing local book stores to get inspired for the Jolabokaflod tradition. I live this community and lol forward to the exchange. 🥰

    Amy O
  • I did participate last year with the Classics Community and before that with my SIL (she’s the one who first told me about the book flood and it has been so much fun and so rewarding, too!) I am really looking forward to participating again this year. The only thing I worry about is hoping the recipient enjoys the book I chose specifically for them! Something I have done is to make a special trip to a bookstore to choose the titles; we don’t don’t have them in our area so I plan a trip of an hour or so to the nearest larger city to peruse the new releases. It makes a really fun outing for me, and I enjoy feeling like I personally and literally hand-picked the novel and the candy before sending them with my best holiday cheer to the recipient 😊.

    Lynda A.

Leave a comment