Jolabokaflod, or The Icelandic Tradition of Book Giving

What is Jolabokaflod?

Jolabokaflod became an Icelandic tradition during World War II. It translates roughly to the Christmas book flood. Books are given on Christmas Eve and the day is spent reading by the fire drinking hot chocolate. John and I love Iceland, books, reading by the fire, and hot chocolate so those seemed like four perfect reasons for us to start a new tradition.

Kendra’s Book

I requested Day by Michael Cunningham, which I also plan to have as my book club selection in May of next year. My group read his book The Hours, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1999, and also saw the Oscar-winning movie in 2002. This is one of those very rare situations when I loved both the book *and* the movie and have reread and rewatched them both.

The Hours tells the story of three women on a single day of their lives… Virginia Wolff, Laura Brown, and Clarissa Vaughn. Love and loss play a big role throughout the book, and I found it fascinating the way the stories were intertwined though they take place in different periods of time… 1923, 1949, and the present day (1998).

Day also appears to play with time, but in this book it follows one family on the same date in 2019, 2020, and 2021… before, during, and after Covid, and also focuses on love and loss. I hope it lives up to my expectations. I will keep you posted.

Day by Michael Cunningham for Jolabokaflod

John’s Book

John was a history major in college, loves reading both historical fiction and nonfiction, and has a special affinity for Icelandic sagas. He requested The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson, the award winning author of the Dark Iceland series.

The Girl Who Died is a story about a lonely young woman in search of a new job. That search takes her to an isolated small town whose residents seem to be hiding a secret. I’ll give you his take on it in a follow up as well.

The Girl Who Died by Ragnar Jonasson for Jolabokaflod

Connor’s Book

Connor, our youngest, will be with us for Christmas Eve, so he too gets to join in on the fun. One of his favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut. My favorite Vonnegut story is the one where a group of high school students reach out to him as part of a persuasive writing assignment, regarding the possibility of his making a visit to their school.

An excerpt of his response is below:

Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame, but to experience becoming, to find out what’s inside you, to make your soul grow.

For his book, Connor chose North Woods by Daniel Mason, Pulitzer Prize finalist. I’m not familiar with his work, but the description of this book sounds intriguing. It is the story of a cabin in the woods of New England and the fascinating history of the residents who live there over the course of many years. I may have to read this one too…

North Woods by Daniel Mason for Jolabokaflod

I am eagerly awaiting our day of peaceful reading by the fire with an endless supply of hot chocolate. 😍 Is this something you can see adding to your own Christmas Eve traditions? How else do you like to celebrate?


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