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.

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