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

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