Library Corner: Enjoying the Icelandic celebration of Jolabokaflod
Grand County Library District clerk
Many Coloradans have anxiously questioned what gift to get for their friends and family members. Would they like this shirt? How would she like this expensive necklace?
In Iceland, the answer is simple. Books! A flood of books, to be more accurate. Since 1944, citizens of Iceland have celebrated reading, family and giving through the celebration of Jolabokaflod, which simply translates to “Happy Book Flood.” During World War II, many resources were rationed, making it harder for families to gift their children new winter mittens or other acceptable gifts. Paper was one of the few items not rationed, so out of ease, books became the common gift to exchange. Every year since, a special holiday book catalogue is mailed to each home in Iceland. From this catalogue, people order their new books, and they all arrive just in time for the holiday.
Looking to purchase some books for Jolabokaflod? Stop by the Kremmling Library for the annual December book sale or peruse the Friends book sale shelves at Fraser Valley Library, Juniper Library, Granby Library and various businesses throughout the county.
Icelanders exchange gifts on Dec. 24. Immediately beginning a new book is encouraged. After gifts are opened, everyone plucks their most anticipated book and snuggles up with a cozy cup of hot chocolate or perhaps the traditional jolabland. This drink is anything but bland. Mix equal parts orange soda with a brown ale such as Guinness. Then, grab your favorite reading blanket and get lost in the new book.
Reading is an important part of Icelandic culture, families and tradition. According to popular Reykjavik news outlets, Iceland is no doubt a country of readers, with many citizens boasting of having read at least eight books in a year. This is on par with many Americans reading nine to 15 books in a year, depending on a range of demographics. This love and excitement around gifting books not only benefits communities but also the publishing companies. Compared with other Scandinavian countries, Iceland out-publishes and out-sells all of their neighbors. Books are not only exchanged during the holiday, but also during birthdays, anniversaries and many other celebrations.
This holiday tradition shares many of the same values with Grand County Library District — values such as lifelong learning through exposure to new ideas and information. Free thought, exchange of ideas and creating strong community are all connected to literacy and sharing the love of reading. Books help us to lay down memories. One day, you will read something which will change your life.
But best of all, books are a great gift to give because they are easier to wrap than an SUV! Happy Jolabokaflod!
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