Christmas Eve Books and Other Traditions Around the World

22 Dec 2023


With Christmas only a few days away, shoppers around the world are scrambling to find those last-minute gifts for their loved ones. But between hurried trips to the store and online shopping in hopes that packages will arrive in time, families are also preparing for their annual Christmas traditions.

While some traditions such as decorating with Christmas lights, visiting Santa, and baking Christmas cookies may be fairly universal, there are other traditions that can only be found in certain parts of the world.

In this great article from The Travel, they dive into 10 of the Strangest Christmas Traditions Around the World.

From a Christmas spider in Ukraine and a scary Santa called Krampus in Austria, to Italy’s Christmas witch, Befana, some of these traditions seem better fit for Halloween.

Other traditions, though, such as fried caterpillars in South Africa and KFC in Japan, may have us questioning our traditional Christmas ham or turkey.

But of all of the traditions around the world, my personal favorite is Iceland’s tradition of Jólabókaflóðið, or “Christmas Book Flood.” Jólabókaflóðið is the Icelandic people’s beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading.

This tradition is so widespread in Iceland that the majority of the country’s book sales happen between September and December each year, in preparation for Christmas giving.

In fact, households in Iceland even receive a free annual book catalog called Bokatidindi, which is dedicated solely to new book publications.

And just as children in the U.S. pour over the pages of the annual Target toy catalog, circling what they hope to get for Christmas, kids in Iceland spend hours going through the Bokatidindi and dreaming about the books they will receive.

In the Icelandic tradition, gifts are opened on December 24th, and everyone reads the books they were given that night, while enjoying hot chocolate or the traditional alcohol-free Christmas ale called jólabland.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I think it’s about time to start incorporating Jólabókaflóðið into my family’s Christmas traditions!

Jennifer Rizzo 
Jennifer Rizzo, also known as "Rizzo," is a Denver-based writer with a passion for writing, genealogical research, travel, and languages. She studied Spanish at the University of Guadalajara in Guadalajara, Mexico and also lived and studied in Ancona, Italy. She also holds a certification for International Tour Management through the International Guide Academy. Since joining The Writers for Hire, Jennifer has written on vast array of topics and has done many in-depth genealogical research and family tree projects. She has worked as Project Manager for various client projects, including: family history books, websites, RFPs, blogs, autobiographies, and SOPs. She enjoys working closely with clients, and loves any opportunity that allows her to indulge her creative side.

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