Jolabokaflod: How This Icelandic Tradition Turned Into My Family's Weekly Reading Night Ritual by Noreen Braman
Every year, Iceland celebrates Jolabokaflod, a literal “flood of books” given as Christmas gifts. Started in 1944 because paper was one item not rationed in WWII Iceland, books are given and opened on Christmas Eve. Everyone spends the evening reading, drinking hot chocolate and enjoying other treats.
Since we were unable to visit family this last holiday season due to the coronavirus pandemic, we decided to celebrate Jolabokaflod by buying each other books. My daughter sent me a gift box of cookies and holiday tea, so we had everything we needed. I even purchased reading pillows for our bed.
What started as a holiday celebration has now turned into our pandemic date night. Every Friday we brew a pot of tea, serve a tray of special treats such as scones and cookies, and sit side by side and read. Occasionally we share a particularly poignant, surprising or funny passage. This quiet, special “us” time has become very important to us, and we anticipate continuing it.
As a couple, it appears easier to do than with a family. Books, treats, time together. But a family can do this, too! Imagine age-appropriate books for the children, cozy pillows especially for reading and snacks just for this activity. For even those with very young children, a new or favorite book read to them while having bedtime treats could start your evening. Once the tiny one is tucked into bed, the parents can continue the night reading their own Jolabokaflod books.
In Iceland, the average books read are eight per person, per year. Today’s fast-paced American life can make that difficult. However, by creating a regular “date night” or “family book night” you reserve time to read, bond and be together.
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