Jolabokaflod: Comfy Pajamas, New Books & a Cozier Way to Chill the Night Before Christmas

A cozy bookstore with big windows and people reading comfortably

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house…

Everyone was freaking out. 

The kids are racing around, hyper and beyond excited for the arrival of Santa. 

The adults are jamming every spare second into prep for December 25th - is everything wrapped? The grocery store was out of cranberry sauce, but jam will do in a pinch - right? The dog ate four ornaments off the tree and Uncle Pete just bailed on picking Grandma up for dinner tomorrow. 

Looking forward to the holidays? 

Sometimes, we spotlight Christmas Day so much that by the end of the night, we are fully exhausted from the effort. 

This year, why not try something new? 

Instead of cramming all your last minute prep into the last few hours of Christmas Eve, assembling the kid’s new bikes, or frantically wrapping the last few gifts before falling into bed, how about a chill night of unwrapping books and getting cozy in your new PJs? 


Jolabokaflod: A Delightful Scandinavian Tradition

Sound heavenly? We need only to turn to our friends in Iceland, who have a magical Christmas Eve book tradition called Jolabokaflod

Translated literally as, “Christmas Book Flood,” Jolabokaflod is a delightful Icelandic holiday tradition that combines the coziness of pajamas with the wonder and magic of books. 

Step 1: Gather around the tree

Step 2: Open your presents of pajamas and books

Step 3: Graciously thank everyone, then go put on your jammies

Step 4: Find a comfy nook and read the night away! 

Once you receive your cozy gifts, the rest of the evening on December 24th is spent curled up in front of the fire or under a comfy blanket, devouring your new literary treasure. 


How Did Jolabokaflod Start? 

Harkening back to World War II, this Iceland Christmas Eve book tradition came about in 1944, when Iceland gained its independence from Denmark.

Most everything was rationed for the war. Everything, that is, except paper. With not a lot else to give, and a love of reading and storytelling already flowing through their veins, Icelanders started gifting books. 

Enter the beginning of the tradition of Jolabokaflod. Iceland was already a nation of storytellers, with a rich literary history, retelling the 13th century sagas of the struggles and conflicts of early Iceland.

Now, Iceland is home to thousands of writers - 1 in 10 people will be published, as a matter of fact. Further underscoring that this is a country of readers - according to the Iceland Review, Icelanders read an average of 2.3 books per month.

Capital city Reykyavik was named one of UNESCO’s Cities of LIterature in 2011 - and it’s no small feat to be included with other book loving cities such as Dublin, Ireland, Barcelona, Spain and Lillehammer, Norway. 

To be included in this prestigious group you have to fit some pretty strict criteria.

They love their books, writers, bookshops and libraries and have made a commitment to promote literacy and cultural centers, festivals and literary events and educational programs that focus on both homegrown and from abroad literature. 

We know Iceland digs reading, but book sales go up around the world come Christmastime. Are books such an easy gift to give? 

Wide shot of a bookstore in Seoul, South Korea

3 Reasons Books as Christmas Gifts Are a Good Idea

Giving books for Christmas gifts is a long held tradition. 54.6 million books sold in Canada in 2019, with a huge percentage being purchased at the end of the year. 

In Booknet Canada’s 2020 survey, Canadian Book Consumer Study 2020, they found that of all the books purchased as gifts that year, 40% of them were bought in December. 

1. Splurge factor

Coffee table books, photography tomes and gift sets can be a little more expensive than the usual paperback, but can end up being treasured additions to any bookworm’s library. When you purchase a gift, you want to make that person feel special, and get them something they may not get themselves. 

2. You Can Foster (Or Share) a Love of Reading 

Every year, I wrap a personalized stack of books for the children in my life. Whether they’re into Paw Patrol, Star Wars, old fashioned Archie comics or Limony Snickett - it doesn’t matter, as long as they are being encouraged to read.

Reading aloud to children is beneficial to their overall development in many ways! 

  • It improves their imagination and creativity
  • Increases their concentration and discipline
  • Supports cognitive development (How children think, explore and figure things out)

  • Reading aloud to them is even more special (If they’ll let you.), and a wonderful way to connect with them. Sharing a story, tucking them into bed and being involved in their night time ritual creates your own story together. 

    3. You Can Connect With the Person You Give it To

    Books can be highly personal, especially if you’ve read it yourself, and it resonated strongly. In sharing the book, you are opening a door to the person you give it to. 

    For many bibliophiles, it can be easier to share a book to communicate an idea, or how you feel about something than it is to actually say it. 

    While you don’t necessarily want to impose your tastes onto others, sharing books and stories can be a powerful way to create a different kind of bond with others. 

    So, I Should Go Get Some PJs & Books? 

    It shouldn’t be a hard sell to adopt this magical, cozy and inspiring tradition from our Icelandic friends. Starting a new commitment to not freaking out and driving yourself into a wall every year sounds inviting and warm, no? 

    Expecting to chill out the night before Santa should kick off your Yule in a calm, relaxed and comfy way. Plus, you get to connect with your loved ones in a completely different way. Cheers and Happy Holidays! 


    Read our other articles: 

    Everything You Need to Know About the Sherwood Park Bookworm Used Bookstore

    The Top 7 Compelling Reasons You Should Shop at a Used Bookstore




    Pictures by 

    (Feature and 1st photo) By Yuliasis

    By cherrydonut