Have you heard of this Icelandic tradition? As if I needed another reason to want to take a cruise to Iceland!! This is their tradition of gifting books for Christmas. It was started during World War II when the imports from outside Iceland were severely restricted. But get these statistics: 93% of the population reads at least 1 book per year! And they are rated the third most literate country in the world (behind Finland and Norway). One in ten Icelandic people will publish a book in their lifetime. The Christmas season in Iceland is kicked off by the reception, in every home, of a list of the top published books in Iceland. It is called the Bokatindindi – the catalog the Icelandic Publishers Association delivers to EVERY home. Wow. And Icelanders go nuts over it. The tradition is to exchange books on Christmas Eve and spend the evening reading. They add chocolate to the gift – and, personally, what better way to enhance the love of reading, than by adding chocolate to it???
So, this year we took the plunge – books for everyone. Everyone. And chocolate!! It is hard to compete, especially as grandparents, with all the myriad of toys out there. And frankly, it is hard to keep up with what is cool and what is stupid, what is okay to gift a 6-year-old, and what is too babyish. The parents know better what clothes and toys their kids want. We may continue to gift toys and clothes for birthdays, but this year, we decided to be the “Book Grandparents” from here on out. Books and chocolate.
Starting in early December, we spent hours researching books for our grandchildren. And our kids. And then we spent a glorious evening traveling the nooks and crannies of Barnes and Noble, searching the books out. We found some, while we discovered others. My husband and I are avid readers. Some of our kids are, too. Some prefer the movie over the book, or the video game over the book. I get that; I truly understand it. And one of my sons abhors his Nook, but loves the scent of a good book, and turning those pages. My Kindle was so full, I had to learn how to move the books off my device and onto my Amazon Kindle account, to make room for more books I could load onto my device! I literally had over 700 books on my Kindle. And I have read pretty much all of them. I want this joy of reading for my grandchildren. The love of escaping to another world where you can see and smell another place, while sitting on your bed. The adventures you can have saving other worlds or climbing mountains, while in your jammies and under the covers. It is wonderful.
I know a couple of my kids will not be thrilled, nor expecting their gifts this year. But I truly hope they come to love them. I think we are spinning out of control and need more quiet time in our lives. Reading can give us that. And genres?? Oh my goodness – there are as many genres as you can imagine. As many worlds as you would like to explore, and characters you would like to come to know. It is a wonderful way to escape this crazy world and learn a whole other way to live.
One of the things we are not incorporating is the entire gifting experience on Christmas Eve. The Icelandic tradition is to give all your gifts of books and chocolate on Christmas Eve and to settle your nerves about Christmas Day by reading through the night. Then you spend Christmas Day celebrating with Church and then feasting with family. I wish we could move in that direction! But this year is huge. A big shift for this set of grandparents and parents. We will see how it goes!!!
Let the “Yule Book Flood” begin!!! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!!!