A warm and proper welcome to November! It’s that time of year when I really begin to think inwards as the weather shifts to it’s cold, dark leanings with falling leaves, blustery winds buffeting the birds about and everything begs for more quiet, something we try our best to ignore. I prefer to immerse myself in this dark, quiet month and prepare for the depth of winter. In all honesty, I would hibernate if I could. (Yes, even after the last years’ multiple lockdowns. Winter is calling.
While I have a stack of wintry and Christmas books, I always like to start of the month by returning to my dear old friends in Moominvalley. Tove Jansson even gifted us with a special book for the month. Moominvalley in November allows us into the Moomin world as it prepares for it’s winter rest, with Snufkin heading off for warmer climates (we think…it’s hard to tell where this intrepid wanderer goes.) The Fillyjonk is cleaning as the rain comes and goes. And Moominmamma lights the stove, prepares a hearty meal of pine needles and tucks her family and friends in for the season. But there are still adventures for a Moomintroll to have and so many strange happenings to wonder about. It is a comforting, warm and soothing book. You should try it, particularly if you are feeling a bit fractious about the upcoming, gift-giving season. (Moominvalley in November, written & illustrated by Tove Jansson, originally published in November 1970. The last of her Moomin stories, the above gift edition is published by Sort Of Books; 25 October 2018)
And this is the perfect book to put me in the mood and mind to embrace the true spirit of Jolabokaflod!
I have been posting about Jolabokaflod since I first learned of this wonderful Icelandic tradition; and doing my best to celebrate it! (In fairness, in my family it was something we always did and I have no Icelandic background…that I know of.) Over the last 10 years or so, it has warmed my heart to see so many of my fellow booksellers and other book-world folk cheering the joys of Jolabokaflod. I think we should send heartfelt thanks to Iceland and just make it a world-wide thing. We’d all be better humans for it.
So, in case you don’t know what Jolabokaflod is, each year at this time, Iceland celebrates the winter season with a most excellent literary tradition, Jolabokaflod (which translates as “Christmas Book Flood”.) In Iceland, the very best Christmas gift to give and receive is a book. This has been the most sought after present for decades.
Kristjan B. Jonasson, president of the Iceland Publishers Association explains;
“The culture of giving books as presents is very deeply rooted in how families perceive Christmas as a holiday. Normally, we give the presents on the night of the 24th and people spend the night reading. In many ways, it’s the backbone of the publishing sector here in Iceland.”
With a strong literary tradition that is centuries old, Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country worldwide, with 5 books published per 1000 people. A catalog of the book titles on offer is sent out to every household. The majority of books are sold from late September through early November in anticipation of Jolabokaflod.
Oh, and they give physical books, not e-books.
I can’t imagine a nicer way to spend Christmas Eve than to be tucked in with a good book.