On Christmas Eve, Iceland celebrates the national tradition of Jólabókaflóð, the “Christmas Book Flood.
That evening, Icelanders anticipate and enjoy exchanging books. After they open and admire their books, family members retire to their individual beds and read themselves to sleep.
This literary tradition traces back to World War II, when the government restricted currency and imported gifts. In contrast, Icelanders enjoyed a flux of money because of the war. Fortunately, restrictions on imported paper remained lenient and books burgeoned as the country’s most popular gift for Christmas.
Fast forward to today and the holiday-reading tradition virtually supports the book-publishing industry. According to Kristjan B. Jonasson, former president of the Iceland Publishers Association, explained, “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.”