NOTE: I will NOT have a post next week for Christmas! Enjoy your holidays, and I’ll see you back here on January 1st.
Are you ready for Jolabokaflod? That’s really not a made up word, and you won’t find it in a Dr. Seuss book. If it helps, the word is Icelandic. Make more sense now?
In its language, you apparently write it like this: Jólabókaflóðið. And it’s pronounced about how it looks, except the J makes the Y sound. You can listen to it by clicking here, but this might help:
- Yo, like Yo’ momma! (This syllable gets the main emphasis.)
- La, with a short A, like the sixth note of the singing scale (Who just thought of The Sound of Music?)
- Bow, like a hair bow or bow and arrow (This syllable also gets some emphasis.)
- Ka, with a short A like kabob or kaput
- Flod, rhymes with clod.
Not that I know this for certain. I don’t speak or read Icelandic, so I’m trusting what I found on the Internet.
What is Jolabokaflod?
Now that we’ve covered where the originates and how to say this fun word, why should we care what people in Iceland do in December? Because, at least for most of you who read my weekly blog, it’s FUN!
It’s all about books! Buying them AND reading them. In English, Jolabokaflod is roughly translated Flood of Books.
The History of Jolabokaflod
Many of you may have heard stories from your parents and grandparents about the rationing that happened during World War II. My Dad, who was raised on a farm, didn’t feel the pinch like my Mom who was raised in a city. I once saw her rationing books, limiting the amount of items like butter and sugar they could purchase in a month.
Sugar and coffee were imported, which was radically decreased during the War. Gasoline and tires were prioritized to transporting soldiers, while many processed and canned foods were shipped to feed the men overseas. Even meat and cooking oil could not be purchased without a corresponding ration stamp, thanks to the Office of Price Administration who worked to distribute the available foods and supplies as fairly as possible around America.
The United States wasn’t the only one to enact rationing.
Jolakablod is born
Iceland used to be under the rule of Denmark. In 1918, they signed the Act of Union, recognizing Iceland as an independent state under Danish rule. This Act allowed Denmark to vote to change this status in 1943; however, Denmark was occupied by the Germans, and most of Europe was busy with the war effort. Once the War ended, a referendum was held. Ninety-eight percent of the voters turned out, voting more than ninety-eight percent in favor of independence.
Iceland proclaimed its status as an independent republic on June 17, 1944.
One of the few commodities not rationed in Denmark was paper. So, as the Christmas holidays neared, Icelanders bought books for their friends and families. Every year since, the Icelandic book trade has published a catalog called Bókatíðindi (‘Book Bulletin’, in English). In mid-November during the Reykjavik Book Fair, every household receives one. And the book buying begins!
These gifts of books are opened on Christmas Eve. And thanks to the Jolabokaflod tradition, everyone immediately goes off to their favorite reading spot to read their new book, often while drinking hot chocolate or an alcohol-free Christmas ale called jólabland.
Need Some Ideas?
So, what do you think? This holiday is a book lovers dream! Imagine, getting a new book AND quiet time to read it. And a collective sigh of contentment escapes from every book lover across the nation.
Do you need some ideas on great books to buy? Then be sure to check out the two posts I did this year on some of the best books I’ve read. You can find those by clicking HERE and HERE. You can also check out my Book Reviews page that I add to once each quarter, or connect with me on GoodReads or Pinterest to see what I’m reading and more of my favorite books!
And be sure to share one or two of your favorites from this year with me!