The Jolabokaflod

By Daniel Nardini

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - CommentaryOK, you will be asking yourself what the word “Jolabokaflod” means? It is an Icelandic word for “Christmas Book Flood.” Now that I have explained what the word means, what is it all about? In Iceland, there is a tradition of giving the gift of printed books. At Christmas time, nine times out of ten people would pick their favorite book titles, order them for Christmas, and these books would then be under the tree literally. In Iceland, it is a traditional to give at least one book as a gift to a child, and adults frequently exchange books as gifts. This tradition was born out in Iceland, once having been a poor country, where people had so little money that the only reasonable thing they could afford were printed books. But this was perfectly acceptable—Icelanders love to read books and one of the greatest pieces of literature is the Icelandic Sagas written in the 10th and 11th centuries A.D. The sagas are very much studied in Iceland today, and reflect the Icelandic heritage.

It is also a very big time of year for the Icelandic book publishers who print out huge quantities of books for people who will nine times out of ten want to buy books. In fact, out of the entire year, 40 percent of all Icelandic book sales occur during the Jolabokaflod. This is also a time when new authors are published for the market. Even though Iceland has only 360,390 people on the whole island, it has per capita the second largest book reading public after Great Britain. This means that A LOT of books are printed in the months of November and even into December just before Christmas for the Jolabokaflod. At a time when most Americans no longer seem to read books, and at a time when books as a rule seem to have become digital, it is amazing that a nation would still not only want printed books, but that there is a tradition for people still desiring and reading printed books which seems to be becoming a lost art.

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