Picture this: gathering with loved ones on Christmas Eve, exchanging a small gift (spoiler alert: it’s a book), then each cozying up somewhere to read with a hot beverage, maybe a fireplace crackling, a furry friend if you’re so lucky...doesn’t that sound lovely?
In Iceland, that’s the yearly Christmas Eve tradition! Known as jólabókaflóð, or Yule-Book-Flood (and pronounced phonetically as yo-la-bok-a-flot), jólabókaflóð is an Icelandic tradition dating back to World War II. Due to import and currency restrictions, it was difficult to Icelanders during that time to procure a wide variety of items. Books, however, were easily obtainable, as restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than the restrictions on other products. This, combined with Iceland’s extraordinarily high literacy rate, led to the Icelandic tradition of gifting books on Christmas Eve, followed by reading your present into the evening.
Over 75 years later, the tradition is still going strong! The publishing community of Iceland has grown up around this tradition, with 60% of the country’s book sales occurring during the Christmas season. Despite the relatively small population of Iceland (325,000) and pool of Icelandic-language speakers, over 700 books were published in Icelandic last year. Publishers send a book catalog to each home, which many people use to purchase books for jólabókaflóð.
In the spirit of jólabókaflóð, we’re gifting more than a few books this season (but really, with as many great titles from children’s lit, to YA, to nonfiction and poetry, that’s every Christmas season here!).
Wouldn’t you want to celebrate the holidays with a version of jólabókaflóð this year?