How Bookstores Can Celebrate Jólabókaflóð

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If only there was a holiday all about gifting books…Luckily, Iceland has this covered with Jólabókaflóð! How do you pronounce Jólabókaflóð? Yo-la-bok-a-flot. In Icelandic, it roughly translates to “flood of books.”

During World War II, paper was one of few items not rationed in Iceland, who had just gained independence from Denmark. Books were gifted due to the value they brought while a lot of other gifts were in short supply. The increase in books being purchased and gifted led to a nation of bookworms and an annual tradition.

An article from Country Living in 2021 stated that “[e]ver since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has sent out a book bulletin to each household in the middle of November when the Reykjavík Book Fair happens. People use this catalogue to order books to give to their friends and family on Christmas Eve, the main gift-giving day in Iceland. After all the presents are open, everyone grabs a cup of hot chocolate and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading their books.” 

Now is the perfect time to plan how your store can join in on this bookish holiday tradition! We have included updated digital assets with graphics and suggested language to help stores with marketing in newsletters, websites, and social media. As stores prepare for holiday shopping and encourage customers to gift books, here are some ideas to lean into the bookish holiday on December 24.

Host an event with themed beverages

From hot chocolate to mulled wine or the traditional jólabland, a cocktail made by mixing orange soda and cola (for an adult version, add brown ale), jumpstart the flood of books as a holiday event! Have wrapped books available for purchase (similar to a blind date with a book) and display that all-time favorite Yule log crackling on a screen to read by “the fire.”

Partner with local businesses

Encourage a comfy reading session on the evening of December 24 with local artisans of all things cozy: fluffy socks, warm blankets, warm candles, and of course chocolates! Collaborate for holiday markets and other winter community events.

Coordinate a book exchange

Model how Jólabókaflóð works ahead of time with a book exchange or swap! Market to book clubs and reading groups, schools, or meetups for new members of the community looking to connect with fellow readers. Potentially, have a gift-wrapping station with ribbon and packets of hot chocolate.

Display chocolates, mugs, and cozy reading essentials

Make holiday shopping easy by having a Jólabókaflóð kit with all the essentials for customers to grab and go or pick à la carte from a display. Include products from your store that can be paired together, like a stack of pre-wrapped books with hints, a pair of bookish socks, a bar of chocolate, a bookstore mug, and a literary candle.