My family has always enjoyed learning about holidays around the world, especially the winter holidays and the beautiful ways different cultures celebrate the Christmas season.
One of our favorite traditions by far is the Icelandic custom of Jolabokaflod. Jolabokaflod loosely translates to “Christmas Book Flood,” and has been around since World War II when countries everywhere were facing rationing and supply shortages. In Iceland, one thing not rationed was paper, so publishers were encouraged to print more books. Likewise, consumers were encouraged to buy and give more books for Christmas.
Skip ahead almost eight decades later, and the Book Flood tradition is stronger than ever. Iceland is now a country of book lovers, and publishers schedule many of their books for Christmas season release. Huge book festivals are held across the country each year in celebration of the Book Flood. Every Christmas Eve, Icelandic families give each other books and cozy up for the evening to read them.
To get kids even more enthused about this tradition, let’s continue with our fun advent ideas to make a Book Flood Countdown.
The countdown itself will consist primarily of printing out some text. Find a short seasonal public domain story online and print it out. Some stories, like A Christmas Carol, may need to be reduced in size so you aren’t printing out too many pages. I also prefer ghost stories or short holiday poems. A fun place to look is fulltextarchive.com, which has many pdfs of classics, and many educational sites have small printable poems. You can also write your own little story if you feel up to it.
Divide the pages into 24 sections, and roll each section into a scroll. It is fine to roll more than one page into one scroll. Tie each scroll with a pretty ribbon. Add a little gift tag to each scroll, with the numbers 1 through 24.
If you have all one story, make sure to keep the story itself in the right order. In the 24th scroll, include an extra note giving them the name of a hiding place. This may be under the tree (or their own bed) or on a shelf in the kitchen, as long as it is an easy place to hide something the night before Christmas Eve.
Place the scrolls neatly in a little basket or tin. Each day of December, your kids can choose a scroll and enjoy a chapter a fun story (or chapter of a story) or a poem.
On the night 24th, they can seek out the listed hiding place and find a new book! Of course, a “new” book can also include one from a used bookstore or an old family book they might not have seen. Include a packet of cocoa or cider, microwave popcorn, or a different snack to help round out the cozy evening, especially if they are getting anxious for Christmas morning.
Jolabokaflod is one tradition I encourage everyone to take up, whether or not they even celebrate Christmas. There is never not a good time to give books!