Why Icelanders Spend Every Christmas Eve Reading Books and Drinking Cocoa
Imagine this: It's Christmas Eve and after receiving a brand-new book from your family, you wrap yourself up in a blanket in front of the fire with a mug of hot cocoa and spend the rest of the evening reading.
That's exactly how Icelandic people celebrate Christmas each year. This tradition is known asJolabokaflod, which translates roughly to "Christmas book flood" in English.
Jolabokaflodstarted during World War II, when paper was one of the few things not rationed in Iceland. Because of this, Icelanders gave books as gifts while other commodities were in short supply, turning them into a country of bookaholics to this day, according to jolabokaflod.org. In fact, a 2013 study conducted at Bifröst University found that 50 percent of Icelanders read more than eight books a year and 93 percent read at least one.
"The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday," Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, told NPR. "Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it's the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland."
Ever since 1944, the Icelandic book trade has sent out a book bulletin to each household in the middle of November when the Reykjavik Book Fair happens. People use this catalogue to order books to give to their friends and family on Christmas Eve, the main gift-giving day in Iceland. After all the presents are open, everyone grabs a cup of hot chocolate and cozies up to spend the rest of the evening reading their books.
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