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  • Writer's pictureT.J. Hendrix

Merry Jolabokaflod

Looking for a quiet, calm way to celebrate the holidays this year? Try a tradition from Iceland: Jolabokaflod. Icelanders celebrate Christmas Eve drinking hot chocolate and reading new books they've gotten as presents.

Jolabokaflod translates to "Yule Book Flood." The tradition dates back 75 years to World War II, when things were scarce everywhere, but Iceland still had a steady supply of imported paper. Books became the gifts of the day, and the custom stuck. Tiny Iceland has a little over 330,000 people, but residents read much more than other countries. Icelanders have one of the highest annual "reading for fun" rates on Earth. Half of Icelanders read more than eight books a year. (Fiction and biography are most popular). One Icelander calls reading "a natonal sport." In 2019, Icelanders read an average of 2.3 books a month.

It's a tradition that fits a country that's home to some of Europe's earliest written fiction stories: Beowulf and the Eddas, epic poems dating to somewhere between 1000 and 1200 CE.

Even if you can't travel to Iceland in person this Christmas to look for Norse elves (50 percent of the population in Iceland thinks the island is still full of them), you can still read about them. It sounds like a perfect Christmas Eve. Of course if you're looking for some Christmas Eve reading that includes magic, mystery, monsters, forests, and shapeshifting dogs, Check out The Pack, The Dare and The Draugar.


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