Easy Bookish Traditions To Start this Holiday Season

Mara Franzen

Staff Writer

Mara (They/Them) has accidentally on purpose made their entire life about books and stories. Mara graduated with a B.A in creative writing and theatre and is halfway through an MFA in Creative writing. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Mara also has written for The Independent Book Review, Wargamer, and The Other Half, to name a few. They also work as a fiction editor with The Minison Project. Nearly all of their published articles can be found here.

Sometimes it’s hard to establish new traditions around the holidays. But it can also be necessary. If you’ve recently moved, or your family has shifted, traditions need to be shifted to fit the holiday season. Bookish traditions are a great way to adapt your existing traditions no matter where in the world your loved ones are.

In Iceland there’s a wonderful tradition called Jolabokaflod. This roughly translates to “Christmas book flood” and refers to the practice of exchanging books for Christmas, to be read on Christmas Eve — preferably with a mug of hot chocolate. This tradition has made books the most popular gift given for Christmas in the country. And I might just be a tad jealous of this practice!

If you don’t celebrate Christmas, but love this idea, you can easily set up your own book exchange devoid of the holiday. All of these ideas can be adapted to fit any wintertime celebrations. Or if you do celebrate Christmas and want more ideas for how to incorporate literary traditions into your existing celebrations, you are in the right place!

Whatever you’re celebrating this holiday season, I hope it’s filled with friends, family, and some really good books.

Book-Themed Gift Exchanges

An easy book tradition to start is to exchange them as gifts! There’s a few ways to do this, so pick your favorite and get the plan in place. All of these traditions can be done as a one on one, or in a large group (like a book club, perhaps?).

  1. Simple Wishlist: Everyone puts some books on their wishlist, and everyone gets each other those books. This is great especially if you have family far and wide, because you can send books to each other and open the packages all together.
  2. White Elephant Book Exchange: Everyone picks a book they already own and swaps them around. You can turn it into a game, or keep it simple, but it’s a great way to recycle the books already in your home.
  3. Surprise Books Exchange: Instead of everyone making a wishlist of books they want, they make a wishlist of things they are looking for in books. Everyone works to find a book that meets the criteria and then surprises each other with their book picks.
  4. Book Gift Basket: Instead of (or in addition to) exchanging actual books, everyone puts together a goody bag full of things to enhance the reading experience. It could be anything from your favorite tea to some bookmarks to a fuzzy blanket: things that make the recipient as cozy as possible while reading their favorite books.

Book-Themed Holiday Activities

If you aren’t interested in actually exchanging books, or you want to do something in addition to the book exchange, there’s a lot of fun book-themed games and activities you can host to liven up any holiday party.

  1. Readings of Winter/Holiday Poems: Each person picks a poem or short story they love that has a winter theme and does a live reading. Perfect for small cozy group gatherings.
  2. Book Character Costumes: Each person comes to the party dressed as one of their favorite literary characters! It’s a simple but entertaining way to get everyone in bookish mood while still carrying on with the typical festivities.
  3. Delicious Literary Eats: If you want some new foods to add to your holiday traditions, why not cook some from your favorite books? You can go on theme and cook a holiday dish, or go totally out there and just make whatever you want from your favorite book. The same goes for holiday drinks.
  4. Quiet Reading Time: Perfect for groups of introverts, everyone brings a book to the holiday party. Then, when the time is right, everyone finds a cozy spot to sit and read for a while. It’s a great thing for after a big meal, when guests are full and a little sleepy.

There are about a hundred more bookish traditions you can participate in or start this holiday season, but hopefully these can get you started. Heck, these don’t even have to be for the holidays, you can host a bookish themed party anytime of the year.

For even more options, check out these posts!