Icelanders really know how to celebrate the holiday season. Each year, families and friends get together on December 24 and exchange books before heading to bed with a book and some chocolate. The tradition is so important to Icelandic culture, that it creates Jolabokaflod or “The Christmas Book Flood.” Because most books in Iceland are purchased between September and December in preparation for the tradition, Kristjan B. Jonasson of the Iceland Publishers Association remarks that it’s “the backbone of the publishing industry”
In Reykajavik, Iceland’s capitol, with a population of 200,000 people, nearly 1.2 million books were checked out from the public library. 1 in 10 Icelanders will publish a book. A popular TV show, Kiljan, is devoted entirely to literature. And in 2011 Reykajavik was named a UNESCO City of Literature.
In World War II, Icelanders didn’t have the proper currency to purchase foreign products and had very little access to imports. This required them to get creative around Christmas. The restrictions on imports, and issues with currency exchange however didn’t apply to the purchase of local books and thus began the tradition of exchanging books during the holiday season.
Jonasson says that “the culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday. Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading.” BookBar wants to be part of this beautiful tradition so we’re encouraging everyone to buy bundled Jolabokaflod books and chocolate as a gift! You’ll get one of our favorite books, some tasty chocolate, and a card that explains the tradition.