In Iceland there exists a wonderful Christmas tradition, which which binds literary and holiday pleasures into a single marvelous event on Christmas Eve.
The majority of books in Iceland are sold between September and December in preparation for Christmas. Icelanders give books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spend the night reading, even taking the book to bed to continue the joy. This custom has become deeply embedded in the culture and the buying season is known as the Jolabokaflod, or “Christmas Book Flood,”
At this time of year, most households receive an free annual catalogue of newly published books called the Bokatidindi. This is one free catalogue that everyone scrutinises while they choose which ones they want to buy.
The small Nordic island, with it’s population of only 329,000 people, is extraordinarily literary. The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world. Icelanders love to read and write and one in ten of them will publish a book.
The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift that you always pass on a physical book rather than an e-book since there is more value placed on physical, paper books than in many other countries. The global publishing industry runs on the pattern of a few people buying lots of books. In Iceland however the pattern is one of the majority of people buying several books each year.
For those of us who love books and reading, this sounds like a wonderful tradition that ought to be more widely known and embraced. Could there be any more peaceful way to relax after all the days of preparation than to curl up with a good book and a comforting drink while all around you are doing exactly the same.