In “A Book for You,” Martin and Sylvia are enjoying all the festiveness of the holiday season. When Daddy tells them about an Icelandic Christmas tradition called Jólabókaflóðið that involves books and chocolate, their creativity kicks in. And oh, what a surprise Momma has when she returns home from work!
We’ve teamed up with Anne Bogel from Modern Mrs. Darcy to bring you more about Jólabókaflóðið,(pronunciation in link), a traditional Icelandic holiday where families gift each other a book and chocolate on Christmas Eve then cuddle up to read. It's meant to provide a cozy, quiet moment amidst the hustle and bustle of the rest of the season.
Here's a little more about the tradition and tips from Anne about how you can incorporate it into your own holiday festivities.
The History of Jólabókaflóðið
In Iceland, where 1 in 10 people will become a published author, storytelling and literary adventures are a rite of passage. The details are awe inspiring — this island nation has more writers, more books published, and more books read than anywhere else in the world.
The “Christmas Book Flood” tradition originated during World War II, when import restrictions limited gift-giving options for Icelanders. Although foreign products were hard to come by, the same was not true for the local book market. And the rest is history! Now that Jólabókaflóðið has become a part of Iceland’s international identity, many more are recognizing the benefits of this meaningful holiday tradition — originally born of necessity, it has taken on new meaning.
How to Start Your Own Christmas Book Flood Tradition
Anne started incoporating this holiday tradition into her own family's celebrations a few years back, "While this literary tradition originated for a reason, my family adopted (and adapted) it for a different one: Will and I wanted to build in some purposeful quiet-at-home time amidst the dashing we did between various extended family celebrations in the past.” (you can read her full post here.)
Based on Anne's experience with this fun addition to holiday celebrations, we've gathered some tips from her to help Sparklers create their own Christmas Book Flood traditions.
Set a day and time that works for your family.
Jólabókaflóðið is traditionally observed on Christmas Eve. Many families already have busy schedules (and perhaps not much flexibility), so choose what works best for you. Anne Bogel enjoys carving time out for this tradition after a busy Christmas Eve to help wind down, decompress, and relax. Our own Sparkle Stories Literary Editor opts for a book flood celebration on December 23. Maybe you’ll want to incorporate this tradition the day after Christmas, or the week before. The great news is that when you are creating a new tradition you have the freedom to choose what works best for you!
Pick the books.
This can be the most challenging part!
“We need a book for each person — that’s two adults, and four kids ages 10-17 — and really want it to be something they’ll unwrap and immediately want to start reading, even though each of us likely already has a book-in-progress. Will and I put a lot of thought into choosing books for this night. We love to give books they’re already inclined to read and love, like a new book in a beloved series, or one by a favorite author. But sometimes we surprise our more adventurous readers with books I know they’ve never heard of.”
In “A Book for You,” Daddy teaches Martin & Sylvia to make their own book for each other — this can also be a lovely element to add to your new tradition! You can even use our Simple Sewn Books tutorial from the Sparkle Blog to get started.
Choose your Chocolates!
If you are a chocolate lover (like many of our Sparkle team members), this is really the icing on the cake — or the chocolate on the plate! Anne also says that choosing the chocolate is the easiest part! She looks for something unique for this special occasion. Here are some of her favorites, from the Modern Mrs. Darcy blog:
- A classic chocolate variety pack (like this one from Green & Black’s Organic Chocolate)
- Interesting (or even downright weird!) flavors — like mushroom, potato chip, or turmeric (such as Vosges Haut-Chocolat Turmeric Ginger Chocolate)
- Try some Ruby Chocolate (inspired by the Great British Baking Show!)
If you prefer to make your own chocolate treats, there are several delicious recipes to choose from on the Sparkle blog too!
- Hot Chocolate on a Stick
- Grandma Mary’s Peanut Butter Balls (Buckeyes)
- Gluten Free, Triple Chocolate Black Bean Brownies
- Mexican Hot Chocolate
- Stove Top Hot Chocolate
More About Modern Mrs. Darcy
Modern Mrs. Darcy, which derives its name from a Jane Austen book, is a lifestyle blog for “nerds” who appreciate creator Anne Bogel’s modus operandi of approaching old, familiar ideas from new and fresh angles. In 2016, Anne launched her podcast What Should I Read Next? — a popular show devoted to literary matchmaking, bibliotherapy, and all things books and reading. Her second podcast One Great Book launched in 2019. She also helps people learn to read better, together in Book Club.
More About Martin & Sylvia
Click through (below) to listen to “A Book for You,” the latest story in our new Martin & Sylvia Collection, Learning Days. Explore the entire Martin & Sylvia series here.
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About the Author
Jessica is a content creator, writer, strategist, and vintage pyrex collector. She has a passion for facilitating authentic connection, whether that's through her work at Sparkle Stories or her songwriting.