With Christmas only a few days away, shoppers around the world are scrambling to find those last-minute gifts for their loved ones. But between hurried trips to the store and online shopping in hopes that packages will arrive in time, families are also preparing for their annual Christmas traditions.
While some traditions such as decorating with Christmas lights, visiting Santa, and baking Christmas cookies may be fairly universal, there are other traditions that can only be found in certain parts of the world.
While some traditions such as decorating with Christmas lights, visiting Santa, and baking Christmas cookies may be fairly universal, there are other traditions that can only be found in certain parts of the world. Other traditions, such as fried caterpillars in South Africa and KFC in Japan, may have us questioning our traditional Christmas ham or turkey.
Of all of the traditions around the world, a favorite is Iceland’s tradition of the Christmas Book Flood. It’s is the Icelandic people’s beautiful tradition of giving books to each other on Christmas Eve and then spending the night reading.
This tradition is so widespread in Iceland that the majority of the country’s book sales happen between September and December each year, in preparation for Christmas giving.
In fact, households in Iceland even receive a free annual book catalog called Bokatidindi, which is dedicated solely to new book publications. Just as children in the U.S. pour over the pages of the annual toy catalogs, circling what they hope to get for Christmas, kids in Iceland spend hours going through the Bokatidindi and dreaming about the books they will receive.
In the Icelandic tradition, gifts are opened on Dec. 24, and everyone reads the books they were given that night, while enjoying hot chocolate or the traditional alcohol-free Christmas ale called Jolabland.
Start a new tradition with your family that will last a life time. And remember a good last minute Christmas present is a bookstore gift certificate, available at your local independent bookseller.
“The Independent Bookseller” is a regular feature of The Westside Express.
Joanne Hoeffer, an independent bookseller, has been the owner and operator of Phoenix Books in Los Banos for the past 25 years. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org.