All I want for Christmas is a book flood
Updated: Feb 5, 2019
This was previously published in the Calaveras Enterprise from my column "Mother Lode Millennial."
Every year when family and friends ask me what I want for Christmas, I’m usually stumped.
As a young adult, I no longer have a long wish list of the year’s most popular toys like I did as a child. Instead, I think of things I need rather than things I want. I have everything I want already – a loving Viking, my own place, my two adorable cats, and friends and family who are just a phone call away.
So in the past couple of years, I’ve fallen into the habit of asking for things that I need that would make my life easier, but I haven’t yet justified the expense.
For example, last year I asked for one of those plastic hose reel carts to roll my garden hose up with. Was I getting by without it? Yes. Would it make rolling up my hose easier and therefore keeping my yard a little neater? You betcha. My grandmother, the most committed gardener I know, graciously gifted me this, and I love it.
While taking advantage of the gifting holiday has worked out and I appreciate these gifts a great deal, there’s a part of me that misses the magic gifts once held when I was a kid. How can I make the holiday magical again?
After thinking about it, the bookworm in me quietly whispered, “jolabokaflod.”
I first heard of jolabokaflod through a meme from the DidYouKnow blog that states, “In Iceland, books are exchanged as Christmas Eve presents, then you spend the rest of the night in bed reading them and eating chocolate. The tradition is part of a season called Jolabokaflod, or ‘The Christmas Book Flood,’ because Iceland, which publishes more books per capita than any other country, sells most of its books between September and November due to people preparing for the upcoming holiday.”
Curiosity piqued, I decided to look into it some more. I found information about it on Read it Forward, a website dedicated to matching readers with their next read, which posted an article about the tradition called, “Jolabokaflod: Meet your favorite new holiday tradition” by Guinevere de la Mare.
She writes that the Icelandic tradition, “…originated during World War II when foreign imports were restricted, but paper was cheap. Iceland’s population was not large enough to support a year-round publishing industry, so book publishers flooded the market with new titles in the final weeks of the year. While giving books is not unique to Iceland, the tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve and then spending the evening reading is becoming a cultural phenomenon.”
Snuggled up in front of a cozy fire reading books and eating chocolate? An opportunity to feel like a kid again and forget all my adult problems and responsibilities? Sign me up. Sounds like a magical Christmas to me.
The Viking also seems to understand this book-loving part of me well. A couple of weeks ago, we somehow found ourselves with a free afternoon – which has not happened to me a while – and so he decided we should go to Sonora. He had a surprise for me.
As we inched into a parking spot on Sonora’s busy Washington Street, I looked around, wondering where on Earth he could be taking me. Last year, he surprised me with a day trip to Columbia State Historic Park. On our way there, I asked to stop at Day-o and said, “While we’re over here, we should go to Columbia and take those old timey pictures.”
His face twisted up, and he said, “That’s the surprise.”
I had a feeling this surprise was similar to last year’s day trip to Columbia, so I kept my eye out. It was then I spied the store Legends, whose sign boasted that they had a soda fountain, antiques, and – what caught my attention in the first place – books.
“Whenever we’re done with what you want to show me,” I said, pointing at the sign, “can we go into there?”
The Viking’s face twisted up like it did last year. “That is where I want to take you.”
It was every book lover’s dream; the entire downstairs of Legends is full of books, organized by genres. I found a whole pile of books I wanted to buy, but the Viking and I only settled on three – an illustrated copy of The Hobbit, a favorite of mine from childhood based off of a Southern folktale called The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci, and another book I bought for someone I love who will have to wait until Christmas to find out what it is.
After our shopping, the Viking and I parked ourselves at a little table by of one of the storefront windows and had lunch and split a bowl of ice cream as I read The Talking Eggs to him. It was truly a wonderful, spur-of-the-moment date, and one I won’t forget for a long time. The Viking earned some major brownie points that day.
Maybe I’ll head back over to Legends and other local bookstores to do the rest of my Christmas shopping, and flood my friends and family with books I think they’ll enjoy. Maybe I’ll get flooded with books for Christmas as well, and that sounds pretty magical to me.