I’ve always wondered why and where the tradition of matching PJ’s came from for Christmas. While I was searching for that answer I also came across the Icelandic tradition of spending Christmas Eve reading and drinking cocoa. What could be more relaxing than donning comfy new PJ’s and curling up with a good book and hot cup of cocoa?

Country Living and Southern Living articles were my main sources of good information. Jolabokflod was also a great source of the founding story for the Icelandic tradition.

Jolabokaflod, which translates roughly to a Christmas book flood and really sounds like the best way to spend Christmas Eve to me since I love to read EVERY night! All I need is a cozy fireplace and cup of hot cocoa with tiny marshmallows to make it perfect.

So let’s start with why Icelanders Spend Every Christmas Eve Reading Books and Drinking Cocoa. Jolabokaflod started during World War II, when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. For this reason Icelanders gave books as gifts because so many other commodities were in short supply. Ultimately this turned them into a country of bookaholics. According to this increase of giving books for presents has reinforced their cultural concept of being known as bookaholics.

Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, told NPR, “The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday. Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.”

Since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has sent out a book bulletin to each household in the middle of November each year when the Reykjavik 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 (books) are opened, everyone grabs a cup of hot chocolate and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading their new books.

And for a bit more of the worldwide growth of Jolabokaflod here is a bit more history on how it is coming to focus.

In October 2015, Christopher Norris, a senior executive-level media, publishing and social entrepreneur, was invited by BookMachine to write a regular blog posting for members of this international publishing community to read, having written a well-received piece about the future of publishing: ‘Publishing 2020: an Advent calendar of change‘. As he researched topics to write about, he read an in-depth review in The Bookseller about the book trade in Iceland, ‘In depth: Iceland’s book market‘, and came across Jólabókaflóðið for the first time.

As Christopher was a pioneer of World Book Day in the UK, serving on the steering committee for the inaugural event in 1996-7, he realized that the Icelandic tradition offered a fabulous opportunity to promote book buying and reading within the same initiative, so the seeds of Jolabokaflod CIC were planted.

Urged on by the BookMachine team, Christopher launched the UK-version of Jolabokaflod at an RSA Bounce event in London for entrepreneurs in November 2015.

In December 2015, on a business trip to New York, Christopher met with Hlynur Guðjónsson, Consul General and Trade Commissioner at the Consulate General of Iceland in New York, to share the vision of spreading the custom and practice of Jólabókaflóðið to the UK and beyond. Mr Guðjónsson gave Christopher’s Jolabokaflod plans his endorsement and facilitated contact with Icelandic organizations of potential mutual interest, including embassies and book trade bodies, players in annual ‘Christmas book flood’.

At Christmas 2015, Christopher encouraged people all over the world to experience Jólabókaflóðið, the joy of giving books as gifts and reading them over the festive period, in a series of published articles and blog postings.

Between March and October 2016, the Jolabokaflod initiative launched its first crowdfunding project at CrowdPatch – called The Icelanders Cometh – which built on the strong connection with Icelandic literature by seeking funds for UK libraries to spend on books published in English by Icelandic authors. The project raised 103% of its target figure.

In November 2016, Christopher started a new Jolabokaflod-related crowdfunding project, to publish a UK version of the Book Bulletin that captures book recommendations and personal/professional profiles for sharing with people seeking to buy Christmas gifts for their friends and families. This project concluded successfully in February 2017, just after a Gala launch party held at the Hotel Café Royal. The Book Bulletin is now an annual campaign.

In spring 2017, Christopher established two companies to promote the ‘Christmas book flood’ tradition: Jolabokaflod CIC (a not-for-profit social enterprise); and Jolabokaflod Book Campaign Ltd (a commercial trading company).

Global interest in Jolabokaflod CIC at the London Book Fair in March 2017 sparked a year of visiting trade expos to spread the word around the world about the Christmas book flood tradition, notably to BookExpo America in May 2017 and the Frankfurt Book Fair in October 2017. International trade fairs continue to be vital to sharing the Jólabókaflóðið concept with the global book trade.

Jolabokaflod CIC and Jolabokaflod Book Campaign Ltd are on rapid growth curves, with interest expressed from people everywhere in the book trade and externally from the general public. Our founding story is far from complete.

So now that you’re ready to curl up in front of the fire with your new book and a cup of cocoa how about a new pair of matching PJ’s to go with the ambiance of the evening? Warm and cozy pajamas are in my opinion the perfect complement to snuggling up by the fireplace to read or watch Christmas movies.

Christmas PJ’s are the new ugly Christmas sweater – cute, kitschy and perfect for Instagramming, especially when the WHOLE family is wearing matching outfits. You are hard pressed to get through the season without seeing department store displays, catalogs or Christmas movies – especially in this age of multiple social media platforms. They have become so popular that many families have made them a holiday tradition each year. The tradition had begun to die off, but social media and influencers have revived it in a BIG way. A family from North Carolina released a music video parody on YouTube titled “Christmas Jammies,” in 2013 which they hilariously recap their year while sporting red-and-green sleepwear. The video went viral with over more than 18 million views making #ChristmasJammies a wildly popular Instagram hashtag.

But seriously how and where did such a strange tradition – one where grown men willingly suit up in festive onesies in the name of twinning with their 2-year-old—even start?

According to fashion historian Debbie Sessions, the holiday uniform first gained traction well before the dawn of social media. As early as the ’50s, holiday department store catalogs would advertise festive get-ups, aka PJ’s as we know them today, adorned with stripes, checks, and other holiday motifs for the whole family. The trend inevitably took off, sticking around steadily through the ’60s, ’70s, and ‘80s. Some companies even customize the PJ’s to match the books.

Carrie@northwoods scrapbook

Love that tradition!! Sorry I’ve been so MIA. Between couple weeks of fighting covid and business I’ve missed out on Blogmas this year. 🙁 I hope I will be able to join more next year! But I’ve loved catching up on some of your posts. Wishing you the most blessed Christmas ahead dear Friend! Much love to you and Skip.


OH NO YOU HAD THAT HORRIBLE VIRUS AGAIN? Sending you BIG hugs! Your Christmas card arrived today – so beautiful! Thank you so much and have a great rest of the week.


I love the tradition about the books – had heard of it and would love to do that… but dh isn’t a book reader. Me & the kids are! I like the pj tradition but I think they are expensive when not needed… however, I should look for them after the Holidays. We did it one year just mom and us girls, was fun

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