From Iceland — The Bookish Tradition Of Christmas Eve

The Bookish Tradition Of Christmas Eve

The Bookish Tradition Of Christmas Eve

Published November 16, 2021

John Pearson
Photo by
Aaron Burden

As yuletide approaches, the thoughts of Icelanders turn to books. And we’re talking real books here; the ones made from paper. The ones with actual pages that, when fresh and new, waft the promise of discovery as you turn them. Have you ever tried sniffing a Kindle? No. Well, there you go.

Icelanders give books to their loved ones on Christmas Eve. It’s a tradition so ingrained in Icelandic culture that you’d think it had been here for ever, but it actually dates back to the Second World War. Thanks to the investment that came with the occupying British and American forces, Icelanders were a little better off than than they had been previously. Since paper was one of the few commodities not subject to rationing, (odd for an island with hardly any trees!), Icelanders’ new disposable income could be lavished on the luxury of books as Christmas gifts. And thus a new tradition was born.

Imagine curling up at home this Christmas Eve, snug in your favourite reading nook with a new book and a mug of hot chocolate… that’s the spirit of an Icelandic Christmas. And you can create some of that Nordic midwinter magic in your own world this year by giving a loved one — or yourself — one of these beautiful Icelandic books from the Grapevine shop.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!