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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Make Jólabókaflóð a Boxing Day Tradition

My husband and I visited Iceland this past year.  It was an amazing trip; we saw waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes, fjords, geysers, black sand beaches, lava fields, snow-covered mountains, lupin-covered valleys, icebergs, a black sand desert, geothermal mud pools and fumaroles, etc.  We hiked to the toe of a glacier, behind a waterfall, around a volcano crater, and down a lava cave; bathed in hot springs; experienced 24 hours of daylight; drove within 100 kms of the Arctic Circle; fed Icelandic horses; photographed puffins nesting on cliffs and a herd of reindeer grazing; sampled Icelandic cuisine; toured historic sites, landmark churches, geologic sites, and turf farms; and loved every minute of the journey.

One of the Christmas traditions of this country which I fell in love with is Jólabókaflóð.  Jólabókaflóð (Book Flood) 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. 

Iceland has a nearly 100% literacy rate, where at least 90 percent of the people read just for pleasure, and the gift most requested by children at Christmas time is a book.  Christmas gifts are opened on December 24 and, by tradition, everyone reads the books they have been given straight away, often while drinking hot chocolate or alcohol-free Christmas ale.

I think Jólabókaflóð would be a great tradition to import into North America and celebrate a version thereof on Boxing Day.  Why not spread a 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.