The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas - Alda Sigmundsdóttir

The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas

By Alda Sigmundsdóttir

  • Release Date: 2022-01-21
  • Genre: Europe

Available here:

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Ask any Icelander and they will tell you. It is a time of year when everything pulsates with vibrant activity, and the nation delights in those festive traditions that make them a tribe. Music is all around, friends gather, restaurants are filled with people partaking of festive Yuletide offerings, authors are out and about reading from their new works. Everything pulsates with vibrant, happy energy. There is even a word for the gleeful excitement one feels when waiting for Christmas—jólaskap, literally “Christmas mood”.
In this book, Alda Sigmundsdóttir invites you on a journey of Iceland’s magical Yuletide season, all the way to New Year’s Eve, and beyond. You will learn about the special foods, traditions, and customs that make Christmas in Iceland so special and meet a colorful cast of characters that are such an integral part of the Yule. In her inimitable style, and using examples from her own life, Alda gives you not only the modern version of Christmas but also the historical and cultural background to many of the traditions that are still observed today.
Among the fascinating subjects broached in The Little Book of the Icelanders at Christmas:
• All the food: smoked lamb, ptarmigan, Sarah Bernhardt cookies, leaf bread, yum!
• Sacred customs: ringing in the Yule, candlelit cemeteries, festive dinners, family traditions
• Christmas lights and their importance (because of winter darkness)
• Essential Yuletide recipes: Sarah Bernhardt cookies, gingerbread, laufabrauð (leaf bread)
• Crazy traditions (eating putrid skate: say no more!)
• Books books books (because everyone must get at least one book for Christmas)
• The New Year's blowout (pyrotechnic madness like you’ve never known)
• The characters of Yule: Grýla, Leppalúði, Yule Cat, Yule Lads and murdering elves, hello!
… and so much more!
"Quick question: did you receive this book as a Christmas gift?
If you answered yes, you will have been party to one of the best-loved Icelandic Yule traditions: giving or receiving a book for Christmas. This tradition is so entrenched in Icelandic society that it feels like it must have been around forever. Not so. It began during World War II, when there were strict limitations on imports, though for some reason the restrictions on imported paper were less severe. The Icelanders were flush with affluence at this time—WWII was referred to as the “blessed war” since the British and later American occupation had brought jobs, and therefore money—but they had few things on which to spend their unprecedented wealth.
Except, well, paper. Only, there was not a whole lot you could do with paper, except … print books? Perfect, since the Icelanders were already intensely proud of their literary heritage, associating it with the glory days of the Sagas and Eddas, before the nation was colonized and driven into poverty and humiliation. In no time at all books became extremely popular gifts, and indeed were THE gift to give at Christmas.
This custom has remained, and today Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, almost all of them in the six-or-so weeks leading up to Christmas. This deluge of books that hits the market at that time is known as jólabókaflóðið, or the Christmas book flood."