Jolabokaflod, an Icelandic tradition.

Jolabokaflod is an Icelandic tradition that means “book flood”. It is a tradition of giving the gift of a book on Christmas Eve.

When I was a young girl, my mother decided to start a new tradition in our family – Christmas Eve books. Recently, while reflecting on this tradition, I asked her if she had an Icelandic friend, read an article about Jolabokaflod, or heard about it from TV. She said none of those were the case. She had a few little ones who got too excited and rambunctious on Christmas Eve. She thought it might be a good idea to let them open one gift that night before going to bed. When she thought about what kind of gift that would be, a book was the perfect choice.

A book does many things for the reader. It can educate, enlighten, and entertain. It can open a world of imagination. It was the perfect gift to keep the children entertained and help them drift off to sleep. So, my parents started the Christmas Eve book tradition. Our own Jolabokaflod.

Each Christmas Eve, the gifts would sit under the tree, neatly wrapped little rectangles. They were always in the same paper and stacked, usually without ribbons or bows. It was the perfect tradition to take the edge from that long night of waiting for Santa to come. We would sit in a circle and mom would hand out the books. Each one of us would open our precious book. Then, we would brush our teeth, tear off the last construction paper chain denoting the days before Christmas, from our bedroom door, and snuggle into our beds with our new book. I still have a few of my books from those long-ago Christmas Eves… “Kittens and More Kittens”, “All About Cats”, and “How to be Mother’s Helper”.

Of all the fun Christmas traditions, this was a favorite of mine that I really wanted to continue. I wanted to foster in my children the same love of reading that my mother had fostered in me. When I became a mother, my husband and I continued this wonderful tradition and some of our kids have continued it in their families. Whether called Jolabokaflod or Christmas Eve Books, it has always had a special place in my heart.

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