Get ready to be inspired by the most cozy Christmas classroom party ideas, EVER! Jolabokaflod, meaning “Christmas book flood,” is an Icelandic tradition that involves English teachers’ favorite topic, books! This holiday custom has gained popularity worldwide, and with a little bit of creativity, you can turn it into an engaging classroom party that promotes reading and starts winter break on a wholesome note. Guest blogger, Erin Evans, is going to share her ELA holiday classroom Jolabokaflod party ideas to help you get started!
Erin Evans is an English and Creative Writing teacher in British Columbia, Canada. She loves books, creativity, kindness, and making her students feel cared for. In her guest post today, she is going to share how she celebrated the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð or ‘Christmas Book Flood’ in her Creative Writing Classroom.
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Winter break is coming, teaching friends! There will be spirit days, concerts, candy canes, and decorations everywhere. You may already have amazing December classroom holiday ideas but if you are looking for something new to do in your English classroom this year, consider the Icelandic celebration of Jólabókaflóð! In English this translates to “Christmas Book Flood” and it sounds like yo-la-bok-a-flot. It is a reader and book lover’s dream. Book Flood! Seriously, how cool!
Turns out it is an accidental wartime invention. During World War II, everything was rationed or incredibly expensive in Iceland, except paper. This meant that books became an affordable go-to Christmas gift when other things were unavailable due to cost or supply. Thus a lovely celebration was born and continues today, even though WWII is long over, everyone loved it so much that it stuck around (Icelandair). Type Jolabokaflod (it doesn’t need all the Icelandic letters) in the search bar, it will return all kinds of great information to share and inspire.
Here’s how it works: people give each other books (or trade books), drink hot beverages, eat treats, get cozy and read the night away. After learning about it, I was inspired to recreate this in my Creative Writing 12 class as a holiday party. It could work easily for high school or middle school. Let me share a little bit about how I did it.
How to Host a Jolabokaflod ELA Classroom Holiday Party
Print an ELA Christmas Classroom Party Invitation
I love to build anticipation! A week or two before our Book Flood party I gave everyone an invitation. Even though my students were coming to our regularly scheduled class, I asked them to RSVP to my school email. This added a little intrigue and let them know they were in for something special. It also gave them a chance to participate in some of the details of the day. I explained Jólabókaflóð and then how it would work in our class. My invitation says, “Books, treats, and friends. It’s meant to be a cozy day of celebrating the written word.” You can create your unique invitation using the Canva template in this freebie:
Set the Ambiance for Your ELA Holiday Party
Twinkling lights, festive music, Christmas décor, and tablecloths can transform any classroom quickly and on a budget. The local dollar store is my absolute go-to but I also see what I have at home to bring in for the event. I even made a wreath out of some old dictionary pages. Then I cue up some holiday ambiance via YouTube (one of my favorite Ashley Bible tips!) and usually choose one with a roaring fire because a Book Flood is a cozy occasion.
These Christmas classroom party ideas are all about being cozy, so I also let the students know that they can wear pajamas or at the very least, something comfy and bring a blanket if they choose. I push groups of desks together to make ‘tables’ to sit at, around the room and students can sit where they like. I do love the little details!
Consider Refreshments for Your Jolabokaflod Classroom Party
Hot chocolate, apple cider, or tea are perfect warm beverages for this holiday party. I usually take care of this part. I run a weekly Tea and Coloring Club at lunch, so I often have these supplies on hand. For other treats, we potluck it, but just treats not warm dishes or anything too elaborate. Think cookies, chocolates, brownies, oranges, candy canes, and cupcakes – regular festive party fare. Students also enjoy savory snacks that are easy to buy and transport, so that is an option too. Not everyone will be able to bring food but there are usually enough who do, to make it work. It will work just fine without food too.
Display the Books for Your Jolabokaflod Party
I like to make sure that I have at least one book for every student in my class and a couple more. This part takes a little planning in advance because I certainly cannot afford to buy books for all of my students. I start with anything on my bookshelf that I am ready to part with. Then I ask my family and friends if they need to pare down or declutter their shelves. I search thrift stores, garage sales, and library discards. Finally, I check online community pages or Buy Nothing Groups to see if there are any free books available there. I don’t like to spend more than a dollar per book. I build up my Book Flood throughout the year. A handful of students will bring one or two to add to the mix. If you can’t gift every student a book, try working with your school librarian to make this a “checkout” party instead. Keep reading here for creative ways to give students more access to books.
I spread the books out on a table as one of my stations, and students are allowed to come pick any book that piques their interests. They can choose to keep it or give it away to someone as a gift because Jólabókaflóð is about both giving and receiving. They are encouraged to take some time to peruse the collection. If I can, I will add other activities or book-related things and each one will become its own station. But these are not strict, rotating stations. It is very much a casual celebration and students can browse, eat, drink, read, and chat freely.
Set Up Casual Stations for Your Classroom Christmas Party
The basics here are the book table, the drink station, and the food. I try to spread everything around the room and allow for wandering space and places to stand or sit. I will type up a short description that I slide into a clear display stand that explains what each station is about. I’ve included other stations over the years too, so here are some more options:
Coloring Station: I’ve had a coloring station with felts, pencil crayons, and crayons because it is nostalgic and relaxing. This station gives those who need to be doing something, a place to be comfortable. I found wrapping paper to color, which spreads well across one of the tables. However, if you want some free bookish coloring pages, download them here!
Bookmark Gift Station: I try to have bookmarks for their new books and usually pick those up at book fairs for a nominal price or print some on cardstock and cut them up for students. You can also find some inexpensive bookmarks in bulk here: Bookshelf Bookmarks or Motivational Coloring Bookmarks.
Book Wrapping Station: One year I had access to some new children’s books and I wrapped them up in Christmas paper, and the “assignment” for each student was to give it to a young person in their lives to spread a little joy – a sibling, neighbor, cousin, or friend. Later I had them write a journal about how the exchange went. It was a fun way to encourage books as gifts and share the love of reading with others.
Poetry Station: You could also bring some holiday cheer to your classroom by incorporating Christmas poetry activities at your Jolabokaflod party. For example, students can create a winter-themed paint chip poem or complete a holiday poetry puzzle.
Craft Station: Other ELA Christmas classroom party ideas is to encourage your students to get artsy by incorporating book-themed crafts into your Jolabokaflod party. You can ask them to create an ornament inspired by their favorite book, write a book-themed holiday card to a friend, or create a literary-themed decoration for the classroom, like these festive “art out” poems.
Book Raffle Station: I have also done a raffle draw for a new book or two, a left/right pass-the-present game, and holiday card writing. Another idea (especially if you have helpers) is to wrap the books and display them like a “blind date with a book” or host a White Elephant used book exchange. There are so many fun possibilities!
When do I do it? For these Christmas classroom party ideas, the last day before break is always so busy and I don’t want the event to get lost in the flurry of activity that often takes over. I usually plan it for the beginning of the last week or the Friday before that. But upon reflection, I think you could justify it for any day of the year because it is just such a fun event. Consider inviting other staff members as guests for a quick mingle or hot chocolate. A First Chapter Friday or Holiday book reading is nice for a fuller agenda.
Jólabókaflóð has been a hit with my students. When we do reflections at the end of the year it is usually noted as a highlight. In the moment too, I can see everyone is having a great time. It is a joyful event that ties in so well with reading, writing, and the December countdown. There are many ways to throw a book flood celebration and these are a few I’ve done. Of course, use what seems doable, toss the rest, and make it work for you and your students.
Thank you Erin! These ELA Christmas classroom party ideas warmed by book lovin’ heart! If you’d like to host your own Jolabokaflod, don’t forget to grab your free templates and printables above!