21st December, 2020

Bookish Stuff: Jólabókaflóð - An Icelandic tradition or a bookworm's dream

I've recently talked about a certain Icelandic tradition which has been a ritual in our house for years, even though we initially didn't know it was a cultural 'thing' somewhere in the world. As so many of you were interested in learning more about Jólabókaflóð, I decided it was time for a blog post dedicated to this wonderful custom. 

In Iceland, a few things are omnipresent at Christmas time: the cold, the extremely short days, snow, hot rice pudding with an almond hidden inside and ... books. The tradition that so many readers around the world admire began about 80 years ago: In 1940, Iceland was occupied by the Allied Forces. Importing goods was near impossible in these times so the country became creative: The country improved and extended its publishing/book industry.  Whenever someone was looking for a way to pass their time or searching for a present, books were the go-to solution. And this is when Jólabókaflóð - the Christmas book flood - was born. 

Today, the people of Iceland still gift a lot of books on Christmas Eve - books and chocolate, to be precise. The afternoon and evening are usually spent together with family and friends, eating and chatting, but after gifts are exchanged, the rest of the night belongs to the books!

In general, winter is a time of books in Iceland. Almost all new books are published between early October and mid-November. In order to give its citizens an overview of the new titles, the country prints an annual catalogue called the Bókatíðindi. And every Icelandic household gets a copy of this catalogue in the post - for free! At Christmas time then the whole thing is brought to the next level: In early December the nominees for the National Book Award are announced, and writers are kept quite busy because it's common to have author readings at Christmas parties. Eventually, Christmas Eve is the ultimate highlight. There are books, and books, and books, and chocolate, and books. Perfect for that lazy week between Christmas and New Year's. 

What about you? Do you usually gift or get books for Christmas? Are you maybe already celebrating the Jólabókaflóð? Let me know in the comments.

Merry Christmas!!!! 

(Photo credit: Freepik)

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