Bookish Holiday Tradition: Jolabokaflod

What Iceland lacks in land mass, they make up for in letters. Many, many letters.

  • Eyjafjallajökull became the most mispronounced news story of 2010 when it erupted and disrupted air travel.
  •  Byggingarverkfræðingur is a 22-letter(!) word that simply means “civil engineer”.  
  • And, of course, Bjork, which is not as difficult to say, but nearly impossible to listen to.

Well, I have a new cluster of misplaced letters you might enjoy…Jolabokaflod.

Jolabokaflod might sound like a monster out of Beowulf, but it is a delightful Icelandic holiday tradition. Translated, the word Jolabokaflod means “holiday book flood”. Each year, Icelanders receive an annual book catalog, called the Bokatidindi. People look through the Bokatidindi and choose the books they wish to buy. This flurry of book buying begins the “holiday book flood”, or the Jolabokaflod.

What is Jolabokaflod?

On Christmas Eve, people exchange their book gifts, then spend the rest of the evening reading their presents. I assumed they would do this while feasting on fresh whale meat and shots of Reyka vodka, but it seems it is done with warm drinks and chocolates. How disappointing.

According to BBC, “The country has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world… One in 10 Icelanders will publish [a book].”

That’s incredible! Ten percent of Icelanders will publish a book! To compare that to something completely unrelated, 29% of Americans could not locate the Pacific Ocean on a map. Perhaps the stats aren’t unrelated after all.

Adam in Iceland-Jolabokaflod

One of my favorite trips was to Iceland a few years ago. Spending a cold day with a cold beer in the fog of the Blue Lagoon is one of my fondest memories. Gorgeous geysers, breathtaking waterfalls, and the sweet smell of sulphur…Iceland is like another world and I can’t wait to return. Until then, Miya and I, at Hideaway Books, plan to pick up some local whale meat and make Jolabokaflod our new holiday tradition.

For more Bookish News check out:

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World Record Set for Longest Line of Books

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Tell us about your favorite bookish tradition in the comments.