I was reminded again this year of the Jólabókaflóð: Iceland’s Christmas Book Flood. Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country, and new books are typically published only during the Christmas season. The frenzy is called Jólabókaflóð, which directly translates as Christmas Book Flood.
Apparently, in Iceland books are exchanged on Christmas Eve, and you spend the rest of the night reading. (Already I am liking the sound of this.) Then people generally take their books to bed along with some chocolate. (Now I’m taken completely. My Christmas Eve normally involves last minute wrapping and food preparation and a longing to be in bed about four hours earlier than I can make.)
This year hasn’t been a great year for me for books. Beware the Falling Avocados is still in a stage of editing. My novel is largely non-existent. My reading habits have slackened, partly because I’ve had to go to work on the day I used to go to a reading group. I’m ashamed of my failings. And yet? Yet I love books. I relish a really good novel that I can lose myself in. The image of a roaring log fire, a cosy chair, a large mug of tea, an endless supply of biscuits and/or chocolate and a big book glued to my hand remains a perfect dream.
Is there any reason it can’t happen? All the family like books, though we usually find a screen to hide behind instead. We have a wood-burning stove (and even a few logs to put in it). We also have chairs, just in case you were concerned that the dream might fall flat (!) there. There is never a dearth of chocolate or biscuits. Never.
So my Christmas Book Flood will start with shopping for some extra gifts (books!) and switching off the internet. The children will hate me and I’ll feel frustrated at my inability to receive Christmas greetings on Facebook; but a few gallons of hot chocolate, no restraints on the biscuit tin and lighting the fire in the living room should do the trick.
To everyone, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
“Christmas comes but once a year!” my grandfather would declare, stretching and sitting back in his chair.
Thank goodness for that, I hear people up and down the country chorusing. Once is quite enough!
A quick search shows me that there was a short film of that name released in December 1936 – about the right era for my grandfather to be paying attention (he’d have been 26!), but I also see there is a poem from the Victorian era which repeats that mantra in the last line of each verse. Knowing Grandpa, that was where he took the line from. (My family have all been interested in books and words!) You can read it in full here.
Christmas comes but once a year. Turkey and sprouts. I don’t think my family eat these at any time other than Christmas Day. Similarly with Christmas pudding, which my husband adores and the rest of us tolerate. He has decided that this year he’ll buy up all the 1-person puds in the supermarket on Boxing Day and eat them throughout the year.
Christmas comes but once a year. The Queen’s Speech: her address to the Commonwealth, broadcast at 3pm on Christmas Day. Her 10 minutes of talking to the nation and world. Growing up, our day stopped so that the entire family could crowd around the television to watch it. Marriage changed all this, as it wasn’t part of their tradition, and for many years I never watched it… but it is creeping back in to my routine. Perhaps it is personal sentimentality, as I long for my children to have fantastic memories of childhood Christmas, just as I do.
Christmas comes but once a year. A midnight service, quietly welcoming in the Christ-child. I love this time – time to reflect and be peaceful, when the rest of Christmas (wrapping presents, food preparation, family to organise) is running riot all around me. Here is half an hour when the real reason for Christmas is allowed, not with pomp and ceremony but that incredible joy that comes with a new birth.
Christmas comes but once a year. And I can’t wait!
MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE
AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Two weeks ago I announced the title of my book: Beware the Falling Avocados.
Really, honestly, I’d love to give you a publication date, but whenever I set myself a target I seem to fall behind. Or, rather, I find more and more errors in my writing and I only want to publish when I know it is as good as I can make it. That is the joy of self-publishing: I am in control of it all. Obviously, that is also its drawback.
Nevertheless, I have set myself some deadlines and I made the first… kind of… so I’m feeling confident about the rest… kind of… but this will involve a lot of editing over Christmas and New Year! Two years ago I had the time to do it because my children were really emphatically sick. The usual obligation to entertain them and play games and rush around being social with everyone we knew was
put on the back burner abandoned. I had time (in between my new role as nurse) to focus on my work. And the house was quiet – can you believe that? Over Christmas?!
Now I know it is wrong to hope they’re ill again this Christmas. Really, I do know that. Whatever the frustrated author inside me is saying.
This year my deadlines expect chaos and hope that nothing holds me back. Mostly it is editing, but there is still some writing: the final chapter is yet to be drafted, although I have a fair idea of how it will go. With luck, I’ll be back in January with a more positive spin on the book’s progress. In the meantime, it is head down and get it finished.
A conversation on a walk with my daughter this afternoon:
“Mary and Joseph were living together in Nazareth. And then they went to Bethlehem.”
“Why – no, first tell me: who came to visit Mary?”
“The Angel. Gabriel.”
“And what did he tell her?”
“Do not be afraid.”
Not the answer I was expecting! I thought my girlie-girl would focus in on the coming of a baby. What is more important – that she wasn’t afraid or that she would have a baby?
Obviously, given Christians believe him to the Son of God and Saviour of the World, the birth of Jesus is the most important thing about Christmas. But for a young girl (probably not much older than my daughter) the first message from God is not to be afraid.
As we approach Christmas – with all its fuss and frantic shopping, all its food and preparations, all its stress and family arguments – perhaps we should consider the Angel’s message not to be afraid. God’s gift is a great and joyful event for everybody, worldwide. And that is the purpose of Christmas, far more important than all the paraphernalia that goes with it.
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.