Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Icelandic Book Exchange - The Spirit of Christmas


In Iceland, there is an amazing appreciation for books and reading. This tiny island produces a disproportionately high number of not just readers, but also writers. 1 in 10 Icelandic natives will write and publish a book and in Iceland it is believed that everyone has a book inside them. The best part about the Icelandic book culture, is the tradition of giving books on Christmas Eve. This tradition is so respected, it gives rise to the annual Jolabokaflod, or Christmas Book Flood, which begins in September, when book sales climb as families begin selecting the perfect books for their loved ones to enjoy. Here is why I think this is one of the best Christmas traditions to adopt.


It's no secret that Christmas has become increasingly commercial over the years. The influx of different Christmas traditions, expectations and even comparisons has left many families with anxiety and huge bills, often even debt, trying to keep everyone happy and perhaps even keeping up appearances to the outside world. Take, for example, the recent tradition that's found its way into the collective conscience, the 'Christmas Eve Box'. This tradition has only reached our shores here in the UK in the past couple of years, but recently it's become prominent on social media, with ideas of what 'should' be included and suggestions of which items are best, such as this article from The Telegraph. It's unclear where the tradition came from, but it's believed it may have something to do with countries such as France and Germany, who open their Christmas gifts on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas Day. This doesn't make a lot of sense though, because we don't do that, so it's just more gifts given overall. I have heard of some families who allow one gift to be opened on Christmas Eve, so maybe it's an extension of that. The point is though, what began as a humble treat to help children settle on Christmas Eve, containing perhaps a book, a sweet treat, maybe an activity to do, has quickly snowballed into a Pinterest frenzy of matching pyjamas, slippers, DVDs, board games, etc, etc. Thus adding it to the never ending list of expense and stress for parents.



Another example of this is the humble treat for Santa. This used to consist of a carrot or two, maybe a few carrots, depending on the child's ability to count reindeer, a mince pie and some sort of wholesome beverage, such as milk. Now, you can buy special cups, reindeer food, personalised plates, it's commercialised craziness! Which is why I love the Icelandic book tradition. It's simple, it's affordable, and, hopefully, can't be messed with. or 'improved'. The idea is, on Christmas Eve people give books to their relatives, and everyone spends the evening curled up with a hot chocolate and a new book. What I love about this, is that the amount you spend doesn't matter, it's the thought behind the book that counts. You can choose a new book, or one you enjoyed yourself, maybe as a child. You can buy books anywhere, with any budget; charity shops, car boot sales, budget bookshops such as The Works, you can buy a book for less than a pound and there is a book out there for everyone. This tradition is exactly the same, regardless of status or means, and I think that is what Christmas is all about, stripping away the commercialism and getting back to basics with a small, thoughtful gift, that can become an unpressured, lovely family tradition. One that will also encourage reading in the family, which is great, especially for children. Give a book this year, and enjoy a relaxing Christmas Eve for everyone. 



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8 comments

  1. How interesting! When we visited Iceland I did notice quite how many book stores they had and they were so beautiful as well. They clearly valued books highly :)

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  2. What a lovely tradition. We always have a new Christmas book for Christmas Eve to read, my girls love it!

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  3. What a fab idea. I now know why I love Iceland. A sensible affordable Christmas tradition xx

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  4. Highly energetic post, I loved that a lot.
    Will there be a part 2?

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  5. Ah I love this, We try to incorporate lots of traditional ideas into our christmas.

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  6. I love this tradition and can see it taking off in the UK

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  7. Where I live we’ve just installed an old red telephone box and converted it into a book exchange. When we finish a book we take it to the book exchange while picking up another book to read

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  8. oh i love this, i love all the different traditions!

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