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The #1 Christmas present in the world’s third most literary country, Iceland, is . . . a book! “In fact, it’s considered a total flop Christmas if you do not get a book!” ( Yrsa Sigurdardottir, prolific Iceland author.)

In Iceland, Christmas is about honoring your relationship with those you love. The most popular way to do this is to exchange great books and begin reading them on Christmas Eve. Discussion about the books and the pleasure of reading them follows in the days after.

“The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift; you give a physical book. You don’t give e-books here,” (Bryndis Loftsdottir, Penninn-Eymundsson, project manager for Icelandic books)

This tradition started after WW II when paper was cheap. Today, most Icelanders read a minimum of 8 books each year. They also publish more books per capita than any other country (5 books for every 1,000 Icelanders). Kristjan Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association, asserts that “Fifty percent of those who dream of [publishing a book] actually do it. Before they die they try one way or another to write a book.”

Happy Jolabokaflod, “The Christmas Book Flood”. Won’t you make this your year to share in the Iceland tradition of family, friends, food and relaxation with a good book, a cup of hot chocolate, a cookie, and reading until you fall asleep? (The mandarin orange is for Christmas day, also essential to an authentic Iceland Christmas.)

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