From Christmas jumpers to putting out cookies and milk for Santa, we all have Christmas traditions that have been passed down through the generations. But my favorite tradition of all is Iceland’s “Yule book flood”, or Jólabókaflóð.
(If you just spat out your coffee, here’s how you actually pronounce it.)
Originating in World War II when imports to the country were restricted, Iceland’s bookish tradition involves exchanging books on Christmas eve and then spending the rest of the evening reading.
Could there be a more perfect holiday tradition?
In fact, Iceland could well lay claim to being the most book-loving nation on earth. A study found it to be the world’s third most literate nation (behind Finland and Norway – perhaps the cold dark winters have something to do with Scandinavian countries dominating the top five spots) and more than one in ten Icelanders will publish a book.
It’s certainly a country to inspire writers, with its vast ice caps, black volcanic beaches, bubbling mud pits, and a wealth of Norse mythology. Iceland has a long history of storytelling, stretching back to the famous Icelandic sagas; tales of Icelandic families whose ancestors migrated to Iceland from other northern European countries. Before the days of print or even handwritten books, these stories were passed down orally and many have been lost to time.
Whether historic sagas are your cup of tea or you prefer a lighter read, the tradition of giving books at Christmas is one any book lover can embrace. Not only can you share your favorite books with others, you’ll also receive plenty of new books to see you through the dark January days.
Here are a few ideas to start your own family holiday tradition:
- Personal recommendation – buy the books which have given you the most enjoyment over the past year and match them to your loved ones’ tastes.
- A blind date with a book – wrap your chosen books in brown paper, write a clue as to the genre or style of book on the outside and let people pick their own read.
- Bookstore gift card – not sure what book to buy for your fussy Aunt Mildred? A gift card for a local bookstore means she gets to pick exactly what she wants.
- Gift an eBook – if you’re doing your Christmas shopping with just a few hours to go, it’s never too late to gift an eBook. If you live in the U.S., you can gift a specific eBook on Amazon and Nook, or you can buy a general gift card which can be redeemed against books of a recipient’s choice.
And in the spirit of gifting, I’ve got a free bookish gift for you this week. The Cursed Lands authors are giving away a special bonus pack of 15 eBooks to everyone who pre-orders the boxed set on iTunes, Nook or Kobo for 99c.
Even if you don’t have an e-reader, the Nook app can be downloaded on any smartphone, tablet or computer.
Once you’ve pre-ordered, head to the Cursed Lands website to get your free gift.