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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Adopt the Icelandic Jólabókaflóð and Make it a Boxing Day Tradition

Today is Boxing Day, a holiday traditionally celebrated the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts, known as a "Christmas box", from their bosses or employers.   I recently read about an Icelandic tradition known as  Jólabókaflóð (Christmas Book Flood), and I thought it would be a great tradition to import into North America and celebrate a version thereof on Boxing Day.


The  Jólabókaflóð  begins with the release of Bókatíðindi, a catalogue of new publications from the Iceland Publishers Association.  That catalogue is distributed free to every Icelandic home!  Until about 15 years ago, paperbacks were rare because Icelanders didn't see books as something to be read and bought cheaply.  And the book in Iceland is such a serious gift that a physical book, rather than an e-book, is usually given (http://www.npr.org/2012/12/25/167537939/literary-iceland-revels-in-its-annual-christmas-book-flood).   

“Christmas gifts are opened on 24 December and, by tradition, everyone reads the books they have been given straight away, often while drinking hot chocolate or alcohol-free Christmas ale” (http://jolabokaflod.com/welcome/).  Obviously, Icelanders love books.

An in-depth article about Jólabókaflóð was recently posted online: http://2seasagency.com/publishing-iceland-reading-national-sport/.   Entitled “Publishing in Iceland Where Reading Is a National Sport”, it is written from the perspective of publishing but it has lots of interesting background about the Christmas Book Flood.

And even The New York Times featured an article on the country that has a nearly 100% literacy rate, where at least 90 percent of the people read just for pleasure, and where the gift most requested by children at Christmas time is a book:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/travel/reykjavik-iceland-tours.html?WT.mc_id=2015-DECEMBER-FB-INYT-MC9-AUD_DEV-1201-1231&WT.mc_ev=click&ad-keywords=IntlAudDev&_r=0.


Why not spread this love of books?  Though many of us do give books as Christmas gifts, why not turn Boxing Day into Book Giving Day for everyone?  Now, many people spend the day looking for Boxing Day sales.  Why not end the day by exchanging books and then spending the night reading?  That sounds like a perfect way to relax after the hectic pace of Christmas.