Whether it’s family members opening their gifts in size order, a clementine in a stocking, or an annual watching of The Muppets Christmas Carol, we all have our festive traditions that are an absolute must-do.
But this year we invite you to start a new one, borrowed from the people of Iceland.
Over in Iceland, Christmas Eve is celebrated with something called Jolabokaflod.
If you try to directly translate Jolabokaflod, it means ‘a flood of books’. That’s not the tradition. Please don’t attempt to drown anyone in books.
What Jolabokaflod actually is a tradition that sees people giving each other books on Christmas Eve, which they unwrap on that day and set about reading that evening.
The idea is that Christmas Eve becomes a cosy time when everyone’s reading the books they’ve been gifted around the fireplace, usually while drinking hot chocolate, mulled wine, or, if you want to be super Icelandic, jólabland, a traditional cocktail made by mixing orange soda with brown ale and cola (for an alcohol-free version, just get rid of the ale).
It’s thought that the practice of Jolabokaflod began during the second world war, when Icelandic people celebrated Christmas with books as paper was one of the few things not rationed. The yearly Reykjavik Book Fair in November helps the tradition along, giving everyone a chance to pick up a great read for their loved ones.
Jolabokaflod became an official yearly event in October 2015 thanks to BookMachine, who jumped on the idea to push books and reading over the festive period.
Now, in 2019, we have a suggestion: We should make this a global tradition.
Need convincing? Here are some reasons we should all be doing Jolabokaflod this year.
Research has found that people consider reading their most restful activity – but we hardly ever spend time just reading and doing nothing else.
Think about the last time you cracked open a book – you likely did it on your commute or while waiting in the doctor’s office.
In a time when we’re constantly checking our phones or scrolling our timelines, it’s a powerful retreat to just sit in the quiet and get lost in a book. And what better time to do that than over Christmas, when you can put all your responsibilities on back burner?
Jolabokaflod also solves the issue of buying presents for distant family members or your boyfriend’s mum. No need to pick out some fancy biscuits – you can just pick up a book, hand it over on Christmas Eve, explain the tradition, and give them the gift of some cosy hours curled up with a great novel.
Plus, you get to open a present before Christmas Day. That’s always fun.
So we urge you, whether you’re working on Christmas, spending Christmas Eve at home, or spending the day travelling, make the time to wrap up a book and impose group reading time this evening. Crack open the hot chocolate, switch off your phones, and settle in.
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