Are you among those who tell people, “Just get me books for Christmas”?
If so, then maybe Iceland is the place for you.
According to a decades-old tradition, books are the standard Christmas gift in Iceland. As NPR reports:
“The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday," says Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association. "Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it's the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.”
In the months before Christmas, publishers compete for the attention of Icelanders in a season known as Jolabokaflod, the “Christmas Book Flood.” According to NPR, “The Flood begins with the release of Bokatidindi, a catalog of new publications from the Iceland Publishers Association distributed free to every Icelandic home.”
The tradition is especially fitting for Iceland, as it’s famous for being a highly literary culture. As the BBC pointed out in 2013, “This island nation of just over 300,000 people has more writers, more books published and more books read, per head, than anywhere else in the world.” Last month the New York Times reported that “At least 90 percent of Icelanders age 16 or older read at least one book a year just for pleasure.” In comparison, only 72% of American adults read a single book last year.
Many Americans are looking for ways to make Christmas shopping more streamlined and simple. Perhaps Iceland’s tradition of giving books is worth emulating?