Trust me, there is a very valid reason we should all move to Iceland.
I was going Christmas shopping with my family the other day, and I saw just how crazy it was at the mall. Stores were advertising gift ideas for family and friends, selling wrapping paper, bags, and everything in-between. It was a frenzy to get everyone gifts for the holidays.
Coincidentally, I saw a few articles on my Twitter feed about a wonderful Icelandic tradition that takes the place of gift-giving and receiving.
Instead of giving each other gifts, in Iceland, you give each other books instead! After giving books to each other in Christmas Eve, Icelanders spend the rest of the night reading. If you’re a bookworm like me, you should be sold on this idea right away.
In Iceland, a majority of books are sold from late September to early November. This tradition is called Jólabókaflóð (yeah, I’m trying to pronounce it and failing miserably), which translates from Icelandic to “The book flood of Christmas”. Books that are published recently are listed in a yearly compilation called bókatíðindi (which translates to “book news”) that is given out to all households for no cost.
Iceland is a small Nordic island, sparsely populated with only 330 000 people, but it is extremely literary. Icelanders love books, reading, and writing. In Reykjavík, where 200 000 people live, the city library circulated 1.2 millions books in 2009 – which is about 6 books per person. Iceland is also where 1 in 10 people will publish a book – compared to the US where 81% of its 300 million citizens wish to publish their books, but only 80 000 are printed yearly.
Icelanders feel that there is no greater gift than a physical book, and that the gift of literacy is one of the most important aspects of their culture.
This sounds like such a wonderful tradition and part of the Icelandic culture. I hope that this can be something that can be incorporated into North American culture, because the love of books should be shared by everyone.
So, what do you think? Do you want to move to Iceland with me? Or do you want to start our own Jólabókaflóð here?