Morning Coffee: Jólabókaflód

Mockingbird2Pronounced Yo-La-Bok-A-Flot, this Icelandic Christmas Eve tradition is one for the books…literally. It means “Yule Book Flood”, and that’s exactly what it is.

Americans are overwhelmed with Christmas marketing even before the Halloween candy has left the store shelves. In Iceland, however, the holiday season begins with the annual delivery of the Bokatidini, a catalog of every new book being published. Can you imagine that happening in the United States? One catalog put out jointly by all the publishing houses and delivered free to every household? The cost alone would be prohibitive, not to mention the sheer weight and size. Iceland, on the other hand, is not large enough to support the year-round publication of new titles. So the few publishing companies “flood” the market with new titles in the weeks prior to year’s end. The arrival of the catalog is met with great excitement.

The tradition began during WWII, when foreign imports were restricted, and paper cheap. Books are exchanged on Christmas Eve and everyone retires to their room, anxious to read long into the night. Forget the raucous parties with too much food, alcohol, and noise. No one is worrying about who should have their car keys taken away, or what the road conditions are like for the drive home. It’s just you and your new book, a warm bed, and perhaps a cup of hot cocoa or tea and a plate of cookies. Maybe a beloved pet curled up at your side while snow falls quietly outside your window.

News of this tradition has spread on social media and book lovers world-wide are starting their own Christmas Eve book exchange traditions. I’m thinking this would be a wonderful idea for next Christmas, although probably not on Christmas Eve as we have our own traditions. I already have a few ideas.

Morning Coffee: Fairy Tales and Princesses

fallThere’s a growing movement telling little girls that fairy tales and princesses are bad. Recently an actress announced she no longer lets her daughters watch “Cinderella” because she doesn’t want them to believe they need a man to come along and save them. Another actress announced she had to have a long talk with her daughters after they watched “Sleeping Beauty” because the prince kissed Beauty without her consent. Women have voiced concerns about “Beauty and The Beast” because that Beauty is held captive by a frightening beast until she falls in love with him. And the list goes on.

I’ve heard similar complaints about romance novels. We shouldn’t be telling stories about love at first sight and finding your one true love. These stories teach young girls they can’t be happy on their own. If it’s a sweet romance or a Christian romance where there’s no sex outside marriage the one side complains it’s unrealistic and preachy. If there is sex outside marriage the other side dubs it “mommy porn”. This makes me sad.

We’re living in a time when women are being encouraged to stand up for themselves in ways that were unacceptable in the past. This is a wonderful thing! Hopefully our daughters won’t have to put up with the harassment their mothers and grandmothers routinely experienced. But why does it have to come at the expense of love and romance? Yes, young girls should be taught they don’t need a handsome prince to come save and protect them. Yes, they absolutely must give consent before being kissed or touched in an intimate manner. And being held captive by another is now, and always has been, a bad thing. But falling in love is a beautiful thing, something we should all be so blessed as to experience at least once in our life.

Love is a biological process hard wired into our brain for both pleasure and procreation. That feeling of excitement, the racing heart and sweaty palms we experience when first falling in love, is due to a release of dopamine, norepinephrine, and phenylethylamine. Dopamine is the “pleasure chemical”, the cause of that feeling of happiness whenever you are with him or her. Norepinephrine is similar to adrenaline, the reason for the racing heart and excitement. Put them together and you have that crazy cocktail we all recognize: happiness, excitement, sleeplessness, loss of appetite. Researchers studying MRI images taken while their subject is looking at a photo of their love have observed the area of the brain that lights up is the same area connected to cravings and addictions. It’s why when we are in those first throws of love we often find it difficult to focus on anything else.

Love is what connects us to others. Whether it’s the love of a parent, a friend, or a sexual attraction, it’s the one thing that assures us we are not alone. Love is a good thing. So, let’s be careful we don’t sacrifice love in our search for a better future. Have those important conversations with your daughters and sons, but also let them experience love through the eyes of an animated prince and princess. And if you, your friend, or your neighbor enjoys reading a good romance novel, whether of the sweet or erotic or anywhere in between kind, celebrate that, too. We could all use a lot more love and a lot less judgment in this world.