The Story Behind Iceland's Annual Christmas Book Flood

That's a holiday tradition we should all adopt

Dec 19, 2016
Iceland boasts more writers, more books published and more books read than anywhere else in the world. (M I S C H E L L E/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Iceland boasts more writers, more books published and more books read than anywhere else in the world. (M I S C H E L L E/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A good book is the gift that keeps on giving and nowhere is this sentiment truer than in Iceland. The power of the written word is so significant to the citizens of the Nordic Island, that publishing companies there even hold an annual book drive for a very special national tradition that takes place every Christmas Eve.

The 
Jolabokaflod (which translates to "Christmas Book Flood") is taken very seriously and deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday. In Iceland, most books are published between September and December, and come early November, the Iceland Publishers Association puts out the Bokatidindi, a catalog of new publications distributed to almost every household for free. Icelanders pour over the highly-anticipated catalogue and select the books they want to buy, many of which will end up under the Christmas tree, when friends and family give books as gifts to one another and then spend the holiday eve reading.

This love of reading is ingrained in Icelandic culture and since reading and writing go hand-in-hand, it comes as no surprise that according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Iceland's population of roughly 330,000 boasts more writers, more books published and more books read than anywhere else in the world. The Icelandic proverb "ad ganga med bok I maganum" explains it best, meaning "everyone gives birth to a book".

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ELIANNA BAR-EL, CONTRIBUTOR
Elianna has a background in English literature and psychology and works as an editor and freelance wardrobe stylist. She writes on travel, fashion, food and inspiring people.