I am Lydia Tyndall and I’ve got another Miscellany article for you.
Imagine Iceland at Christmas time during World War II. People want to purchase gifts for their friends and family, but many common gifts have been rationed. One of the few things available is paper. So they decide that books would make a good gift. This is how Jolabokaflod, the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve, began.
Nowadays Jolabokaflod, which translated into English means “Christmas book flood,” has become the main time new books are published in Iceland. In fact, every November since 1944, the Icelandic Book Trade has sent each house in Iceland a free catalog listing new publications and popular titles. People then use it to select books for everyone on their gift list. Then on Christmas Eve (which is the main gift giving day in Iceland), everyone exchanges gifts and sits down with their new book and a mug of hot chocolate or jolabland, which is a non-alcoholic holiday ale.
Perhaps the reason why Jolabokaflod took hold is because of another Icelandic tradition called Kvoldvaka. Winter evenings in Iceland were cold and dark, so people had to stay inside. To pass the time they would gather together and tell stories. This has rooted a deep love for stories in the Icelandic culture.
My family has enjoyed honoring the tradition of Jolabokaflod even though we are not from Iceland. I love choosing books to give to my parents and brother.