Icelanders are my kind of people.  They have a tradition at Christmas, known as Jólabókaflóð, which translates roughly into English as ‘Christmas book flood’.

A great summary of it can be found on www.jolabokflod.org, but I’ll copy part of it here.

This tradition began during World War II once Iceland had gained its independence from Denmark in 1944. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war, so Icelanders shared their love of books even more as other types of gifts were short supply. This increase in giving books as presents reinforced Iceland’s culture as a nation of bookaholics – a study conducted by Bifröst University in 2013 found that half the country’s population read at least eight books a year.

Every year since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has published a catalogue – called Bókatíðindi (‘Book Bulletin’, in English) – that is sent to every household in the country in mid-November during the Reykjavik Book Fair. People use the catalogue to order books to give friends and family for Christmas.

During the festive season, gifts are opened on 24 December and, by tradition, everyone reads the books they have been given straight away, often while drinking hot chocolate.

We started this tradition in our family a few years ago and have loved it.  We’ve done variations on it where we added to our family library in addition to giving individual books to people.  This year I’m mostly giving used copies of books, since we have a wonderful used book store in town and it will cut down on waste.

The Icelanders took a time of want and made it meaningful and amazing. For book lovers, it’s a fun tradition to begin in your family.    We introduced this only four years ago and now it’s something we talk about and prepare for, and has become part of our family’s culture and traditions.  I might mention that we don’t have an ounce of Icelandic blood to be found, but we’re not letting that stop us.

I hope Jólabókaflóð might interest people enough to institute in their own families, but writing this made me think about family culture as well.  At times, I’ve wanted to change my family culture.  Sometimes it’s simple things I want to implement, or make new routines or habits, but a few times it’s been bigger.  I’ve learned it takes grit and an ability to push through resistance, coupled with a vision for what I’m trying to achieve forefront on my mind.  Starting a new family tradition seems like an easier way to change culture, so if you want to have a low-risk way of doing that, this is a great place to start.

Merry Christmas!


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One response to "Jólabókaflóð". Comments are closed for this post.
  • […] For Jólabókaflóð, my husband got me a copy of The Zenbelly Cookbook: An Epicurean’s Guide to Paleo Cuisine by Simone Miller.  Oh man, this book is beautiful and amazing and it’ll totally up my game in the kitchen. I love convenience and ease, like Kelly Brozyna’s Easy Paleo Meals, but I also love the more challenging recipes like those of Danielle Walker.  Simone Miller is in the gourmet camp for sure and I’m excited to try out her recipes.  One book she mentions is The Flavor Bible by Karen Page that’s going on my to-read list. […]