How does a book lover celebrate Christmas? Writers typically avoid crowds, with the exception of an occasional writers’ conference, which can take months to recover from. Noise and throngs of people with dazed expressions filling malls are akin to fingernails on a blackboard. The earworm, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” (and there are far worse), can implant an impossible case of writers’ block excisable only by a merciful turn of the calendar to a new year.
Yet writers have family and friends they want to remember at Christmas. Other than succumbing to Black Friday and a perpetual string of internet sales, how can a writer retain sanity, continue writing, and still send holiday gifts and wishes to loved ones?
The answer comes from Iceland and is known as Jólabókaflóðið: the annual Yule Book Flood. Instead of buying trendy, quickly outdated and useless gifts that have made Marie Kondo an industry, people in Iceland buy new books for loved ones as Christmas gifts. The tradition was born after World War II when there was a shortage of material and paper was still abundant. The books are exchanged on Christmas Eve when they are read under the covers after a few Christmas sweets and hot chocolate.
When we began traveling and would find ourselves away from home at Christmas, we had to reinvent holiday traditions. We knew to embrace the culture where we were spending the holidays, but still wanted one of our own that was portable.
Since then, we have embraced Jólabókaflóðið and made it our annual holiday tradition. It’s such a simple way to enjoy giving and receiving at Christmas and still be able to retain the peace and serenity supposedly symbolic of the season.
So on Saturday, my husband and I traveled to several small independent bookstores on outer Cape Cod, browsing and filling our senses with the smell and feel of books. We’d pick up one and sample a paragraph, while never feeling pressure or stress.
After stopping for lunch to fortify ourselves for more of this wonderful adventure, we discovered a bookstore we had somehow missed. What a joy to a couple of book lovers. Where the Sidewalk Ends https://www.facebook.com/Where-The-Sidewalk-Ends-204766722878707/ is a delightful independent bookstore owned by a mother and daughter in Chatham, Massachusetts. It has an enchanted and welcoming feel that invites you to explore and enjoy.
After an hour of browsing, we each selected a book to give one another. Since we both have towering To Be Read piles, we consult each other to avoid duplication. We left filled with anticipation and excitement about Christmas Eve with only the task of what treats would be left to decide. Such holiday pressure! Tomorrow I’ll share what we decided and reveal our choice of books.
How do my fellow book lovers enjoy rather than endure the holiday season? Please share. It’s the season of giving.