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An Icelandic tradition, Jolabokaflod, roughly translated as book flood is where books are given as presents on Christmas Eve ...

December: Hoping for a flood of books

Photo: Annie Spratt

Photo: Annie Spratt

I love this time of the year. Maybe it’s because I am a winter baby but I find myself more at ease and content around this time more than any other.

Some of the things I love most are: long walks in the cold crisp air, hot drinks, fires and big books. I know that’s beginning to sound a bit like Hygge that Scandinavian tradition that reached our shores a few years back with books on the subject filling the shelves in bookshops across the country. A Finnish friend of mine remarked sceptically that was a great way of selling more candles and blankets. Still, it's a state I aspire to in my dreams, but for me to reach that idyll, I would have to either move house, paint everything grey and white and buy a shed to hide all the clutter.

That said, the essence of this lifestyle is celebrating the ordinary and relishing the simple pleasures. I think that’s something we have all rediscovered this year - when you pare it right back the things we really want in our lives this Christmas are: family, friends, good health and good food.

Inevitably as Christmas nears we begin to think of traditions, our own small ones as well as the bigger ones. This year I have decided to start one in my home - one that I have borrowed from Iceland - the amazing tradition of Jolabokaflod. In Iceland this tradition, roughly translated as book flood is where books are given as presents Christmas Eve night after dinner so that friends and family can curl up cozily with their new book and read through the night. This tradition began soon after Iceland gained their independence in 1944. Many things were in short supply but paper was not rationed during the war so it became traditional to give books as gifts.

This tradition has kept up and since 1944 each November a book bulletin or catalogue called Bókatíðindi is published in English and sent to each household in the country. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world with the majority of books sold from late September to early November. Now that’s a tradition I can get behind so this year, I aim to start my own Jolabokaflod and give a book as a present to anyone that is with me for Christmas Eve dinner. I will also be supporting some of the amazing bookshops we are so luck to have in Dublin.

For our December book of the month, we’ve chosen Dubliners by James Joyce, and particularly the last story in the collection - The Dead, which is set at Christmas time.

We’re going to run our monthly book club a little earlier this month, on Thursday 10th December. You can book your place here.

If you’d like to know more about the book club or would like to share your thoughts about Our City Our Books, we'd love to hear from you. Get in touch at

Bernadette Larkin

Our City Our Books Project Manager

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