Christmas is not only a time in Iceland to celebrate the nation’s love of books; it’s also a time to get serious about wrapping up warm. If Icelandic children don’t get new clothes for Christmas, legend has it that a monstrous black Yule Cat will pounce and eat them up. It makes sense for parents to clothe their children well to keep them well-protected against inclement weather.
Although the origins of the myth are hazy, the cat is related to the story of the ogress Grýla and her thirteen Yule Lad offspring. The feline menace was popularised in a famous poem by Jóhannes úr Kötlum (1899–1972) – ‘Jólakötturinn‘ (‘The Christmas Cat‘) – that was in turn put to music by pop icon, Björk.
All the more reason to snuggle up in comfort reading next to a roaring fire, drink in hand, reading a new book gifted for Christmas, while the wind, rain and snow rage outside.
Happy Jolabokaflod. This Christmas, may you give the books you cherish, receive the books you desire, and read the books you love.