During Jolabokaflod, Icelanders Read Books And Drink Hot Cocoa

Jolabokaflod, the enchanting Christmas Eve tradition of Iceland, is a celebration that revolves around the joy of reading. The name itself, Jólabókaflóðið, translates to "Christmas Book Flood," reflecting the deluge of books that inundate Icelandic homes in the weeks leading up to Christmas. The bibliophilic ritual emerged during World War II, a period of rationing and scarcity during which paper was one of the few commodities still available. Perhaps many Icelanders also found solace in the written word, and from these humble origins, Jolabokaflod was born. The custom has since evolved into a cherished piece of the Nordic country's culture.

The magic of Jolabokaflod begins with the selection of books from Bokatidindi, a giant catalog that includes a list of every book published throughout the year. From this index, families choose titles they believe their loved ones will enjoy. As night falls on December 24, Icelanders gather in their toasty homes, one can imagine the glow of candlelight and the crackling fireplace adding to the atmosphere, to exchange the books as gifts. The swapping of books is accompanied by another essential component of Jolabokaflod: sipping on comforting drinks like coffee, tea, jolabland (a non-alcoholic cocktail of orange soda and brown ale), and of course, hot cocoa.

Hot cocoa and books are a perfect combination

In Iceland, winters are marked by long, dark nights and sub-zero temperatures, creating the perfect backdrop for the amity of Jolabokaflod. Sipping on a steaming mug of hot cocoa while reading a brand-new or well-worn book is part of a full sensory experience, inviting readers to immerse themselves in the pages and wrap themselves in the cocoon of a captivating story. The sweet libations facilitate a sense of companionship and coziness.

Classic Icelandic-style hot cocoa — known as súkkulaði in the Land of Fire and Ice — is made from a blend of cocoa powder, milk, sugar, vanilla extract, and a pinch of sea salt. The heat from the drink and the allure of a good book provide solace against the solstice chill — a welcome contrast to the frigid outdoors. Hot beverages also complement the spirit of togetherness that Jolabokaflod encourages. The act of sharing a hot drink often signifies a moment of relaxation and the opportunity to engage in meaningful interactions, making it a universally recognized way to bond with others.

In a world increasingly dominated by the frenetic pace of modern life, Jolabokaflod reminds folks of the importance of slowing down and embracing the simple pleasures. It's a testament to the enduring power of literature to transport us to different worlds, spark imaginations, and foster connections. Jolabokaflod represents the epitome of holiday traditions — a beautiful fusion of warmth and conviviality. Gleðileg jól!