• Everyone loves the idea of Iceland's festive book tradition (Getty Images / Anna Bizon)Source: Getty Images / Anna Bizon
The Jólabókaflóðið combines two of our favourite things.
Kylie Walker

19 Dec 2018 - 8:36 AM  UPDATED 24 Nov 2018 - 1:32 PM

If the idea of settling in for the night with a good book and a drink – a hot chocolate if it’s cold, a glass of something chilled if it’s hot – sounds like heaven, then Iceland’s Christmas Eve Jólabókaflóðið (roughly, “flood of books”) tradition is for you.

Iceland has always been a country of booklovers, and while the rate of book buying and publishing has settled a little from the dizzy heights of years past,  jólabókaflóðið, or jolabokaflod, remains a popular tradition.

The history of this December tradition – which see publishers release a flood of new books in the lead-up to Christmas – goes back to World War II, when restrictions on imports to Iceland limited gift-giving options, and Icelanders turned to the local book market.

In 1944 the Icelandic book trade started sending a book catalogue to every household in November. Christmas Eve, which is when presents are opened, became a night when many folk settle in to read their gifts, often with a cup of hot chocolate. Or just chocolate.

It’s a tradition that’s been picked up by book lovers abroad, too

Now, while Iceland is in the midst of winter at Christmas, and so are many of the fans in the US and the UK who’ve embraced the idea, here in Australia a hot chocolate might not be the beverage of choice in the depths of summer. That’s okay. It’s a flexible tradition. We think this recipe from Heston Blumenthal for ice chocolate wine (it’s like a red wine and chocolate slushie!) might be just the ticket, or this spiced chocolate martini.

Or maybe beer and books?

Or if you’d like to nibble rather than drink your jolabokaflod chocolate, swoop on over to our chocolate recipe collection. From buñuelos de cuaresma (chocolate-filled deep-fried Spanish fritters) to suitably festive cherry and orange florentines, there are hundreds of possibilities.

A time for traditions
14 festive food traditions from around the world you’ll want to steal right now
From a table of 12 desserts to confetti latke, these ideas will have your guests talking all year long.
9 countries at my table: how families integrate food traditions
How do I teach my kids about the multitude of countries in their ancestry? Through food, of course.
How decimal currency (almost) ruined Christmas
In came the dollars and out went the tradition of putting coins in festive puddings. But wait, there’s good news on that front, too.
Bakeproof: Traditional Christmas baking
Meet our everyday baker, Anneka Manning. Each fortnight, she'll be sharing her baking rituals, modern and ancient, and baking techniques from around the world. This week, she shares her recipes for traditional Christmas baking.