Nordic Christmas: Jolabokaflod

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This post is part of our series exploring Nordic Christmas traditions. To see the entire collection, visit the Nordic Christmas home page.

Jolabokaflod. The word just rolls off your tongue, doesn’t it? Okay, maybe it doesn’t, but the concept is brilliant: yule book flood. Iceland is the most literate country in the world. In fact, what the Sears catalog was to us as children, marking the beginning of the Christmas season, the Bokatidindi is to Icelanders. The Bokatidindi is the annual catalog of all the newly published books delivered from the Iceland Publishers Association to every home in Iceland. 

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Photo by Kylie D’alessandro from Pexels

Although literacy is a tradition that dates back centuries for the small island country, the Jolabokaflod grew to what it is now because of WWII rations. Imports were nonexistent, but paper was plentiful. Books became the gift of choice for Christmas. 

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Photo by Min An from Pexels


You’ve possibly seen the memes over the past couple of years, advertising the Christmas Eve tradition of gifting books to each other and then staying up all night to read them. This was definitely a motivating factor for me when I selected Nordic Christmas for our theme this year. I really wanted this tradition in my life.

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Photo by Peter Heeling from Pexels
NOT my local library, which is great but not like this.

To avoid spending even more money than we already have this year, we went to the library. Each family member carefully researched and selected a book for someone else. We have a great local library so it wasn’t hard to find something for each of us. When I explained to the family what we would be doing my middle son, aged 11, exclaimed “yay! Two Christmases!” That’s the spirit, kid!

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Each of our books to exchange are from the library with one exception: I purchased an “on theme” book for my youngest son. Viking Lullaby is a tender reminder of family life and routines, or peace and of love. (If we watch too much tv we might get lost in pillaging stereotypes.) As I read it I thought “this feels like an actual song the author would have sung to her children.” I know the author from college; music is an important part of her life as are words. Sure enough when I turned to the last page, there was the sheet music for the book. In the spirit of Jolabokaflod I couldn’t think of a better thing to buy than this.

Tonight we are going to exchange books with each other and cuddle up with some hot chocolate and our  new books.

God Jul, everyone!

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