Posts Tagged ‘holidays’


Reading the Night Away With the Jólabókaflóð

by Amanda on December 15th, 2017

What the heck is Jólabókaflóð? Literally, it means “Christmas Book Flood,” and it’s pronounced “Yo-la-bok-a-flot.” Maybe you’ve heard of it, since all things Nordic are very trendy right now (hygge, Nordic noir, Scandinavian minimalism, et cetera). It’s the Icelandic tradition of exchanging books on Christmas Eve, then spending the night reading those books. In Iceland, the holiday season kicks off in November with the delivery of the Bókatíðindi—the annual Book Bulletin, distributed by the Icelandic Publishers Association for free to each Icelandic home.

This tradition began during World War II after Iceland gained its independence from Denmark. Paper was one of the few commodities not rationed during the war, so books became the gift of choice, as other types of gifts were scarce. Iceland loves its books: 93% of Icelanders read at least one book a year (compared to 73% of Americans), and it is the third most literate country in the world (Finland and Norway are the first and second). In Iceland, one in ten people will publish a book in their lifetime, and in 2011 Reykjavík was designated a UNESCO City of Literature, three years after Iowa City received the same distinction.

Jólabókaflóð is easy to adapt to your family’s needs. While the original tradition is tied to Christmas, yours doesn’t need to be! Simply gather your family together, and enjoy each other’s company while exchanging your favorite books. Check out used bookstores, thrift stores, and library sales to get the best deals on your Book Flood gifts, or use library books for a totally free exchange (just be careful about overdue books). This article has some really fun ideas for creating your own Book Flood tradition.

This sweet tradition is very close to my heart. I grew up in a family of readers—which is probably not surprising, now that I’m working in a library and getting my Master’s in Library Science. For a lot of other families, Christmas day is a loud, boisterous occasion. For my family, it was all about the books. On Christmas Eve, we would gather around the tree and read classic picture books together; the next day was usually spent in pajamas, scattered around the house, reading all the new books we’d received as gifts. To me, there’s almost nothing better than being with people you love, reading.

What books will you give to your loved ones this holiday season?

What should I bake for a Christmas cookie exchange?

by Melody Dworak on November 27th, 2017

The holiday season is in full swing. It might hit 60 degrees today, but that doesn’t mean you can’t turn on your oven and bake something delicious. And if you have a Christmas cookie exchange coming up, I have just the recommendations for you. The following digital magazines promise to please your cookie-loving taste buds. Or just have delight in looking at all the lovely food styling photos. I won’t judge!

 

All Recipes 

All Recipes Dec/Jan 2018

Find new twists on Christmas favorites, like peanut ginger double-deckers and cranberry pistachio spirals. Yum!

Read the rest of this entry »

Let us now give thanks, and eat.

by Candice Smith on November 10th, 2017

The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914), Pilgrim Hall Museum

I love finding out what is behind our holidays and traditions–why do we put a tree in the house? why the painted eggs? why did he put ashes on my forehead?–but Thanksgiving is one of those that I hadn’t given much thought to. According to Bruce Forbes and his excellent America’s Favorite Holidays, the holiday we celebrate today is pretty straightforward and connected to events that happened in our country’s past, although not in the way I had imagined.

We can thank the Puritans for getting us started with the holiday. Much of the reason they wanted to leave England was to have their religion the way they wanted it, and one of the things they wanted was fewer holidays. The Church used to be pretty big on them, with lots of days to recognize saints, have feasts, practice penitence–well over 100 days per year for a long time, including Sundays–and all of this time off meant less work, less pay, more goofing off. Puritans felt that Sundays should be used for worship and other religious acts, and aside from that there should only be a few days a year for either giving thanks and feasting (when good things happened) or for fasting and penitence (when not-so-good things happened). These days were most often proclaimed by religious authorities, and started to be somewhat common, although only when warranted. However, as the population of the colonies grew, the desire for the traditional harvest festival did as well, and even the Puritans were swayed by that. Read the rest of this entry »

This just in: St. Patrick, not actually Irish.

by Candice Smith on March 3rd, 2017
This just in: St. Patrick, not actually Irish. Cover Image

Is that a load of blarney?? No. Okay, many of you probably knew that, but I confess that I did not, or that I had forgotten. St. Patrick, patron saint of Ireland, was born in some part of Britain while it was under Roman occupation. It’s not known for sure whether his parents, Calpornius and Concessa, were also born in Britain, or Italy. Little is known about his family and upbringing; his biography, Confession, gives some details, but for the most part is pretty vague about locations and dates.

So, what do we know about this very popular (especially in March) and beloved saint? Read the rest of this entry »

A holiday for everyone

by Candice Smith on December 9th, 2016
A holiday for everyone Cover Image

I grew up with a Christmas experience that I think will be familiar to many in one way or another. I was raised Catholic, so for the first 18 years of my life I did attend mass; this was usually on Christmas Eve, and it was very exciting to me as a child because the church lights would be turned off as the priest walked down the aisle, swinging a thurible filled with smoky incense. It seemed very exotic, not the regular day at church. We would hear the story of the birth of Christ and the three wise men, sing songs, and depending on which mass we were at, there would be a children’s pageant. After, we would go home and have a meal together, and my sister and I would head to bed while my parents stayed up a little longer. In the morning, we would be led from our rooms to the kitchen, eyes covered so that we couldn’t peek at the presents under the tree. Only after breakfast were we allowed to go open the presents; one person was designated to pass out the gifts, and they were opened one at a time. In this way, a good hour or two was spent opening presents and watching others do the same, eventually covering our living room floor with colored paper. Read the rest of this entry »

An epiphany, of sorts.

by Candice Smith on January 8th, 2016

holidaysI did not put up a Christmas tree this year, although I usually put one up around Thanksgiving and keep it around until at least New Year’s (actually, it’s always ‘around’ in the sense that it’s fake, it just spends a lot of time in the basement). I really enjoy having the tree; I love decorating it with ornaments that I’ve collected through the years, all of which are special to me for one reason or another, and as I unwrap and place each one I’m reminded of things like when I got it and why I chose it, who gave it to me, or who it used to belong to. I put multiple strands of lights on the tree, a tree skirt for the presents to sit on, and a star on top–the whole deal.

This year, however, I have two 1-year-old boy cats that like to run, jump, climb, and eat whatever they can get their little, adorable paws on. The tree was an obvious no.

Regardless of the sad state of my home and its holiday decor, I recently learned something that I can take into consideration the next time I am able to put the tree up–and that is when to take it back down. I never knew that there were traditions about this, so I may be late to this game. It seems that one should have their tree and all decorations put away by the Twelfth Night holiday. Simple, right? Sort of. January 5 is the twelfth day after Christmas Eve, while January 6 is the twelfth day after Christmas. January 6 is also the holiday of Epiphany, which marks the end of the twelve days of Christmas, and the revealing of the newborn Jesus to the three wise men. So, which night is the real Twelfth Night? It seems that you can choose whether you go with the eve before January 6, or the eve of–according to the book Holiday Symbols and Customs, most celebrate it on the night of Epiphany, the 6th. Which is the twelfth. Choose wisely, though–tradition holds that anyone with decorations still up will suffer bad luck in the coming year.

But wait…there’s more! There is also a tradition that one put away their Christmas tree and decorations on February 2, which is Candlemas–a holiday that marks the presentation of Jesus at the temple, and involves the lighting of many candles to represent the belief that he was a light for the world. The book Folklore of World Holidays states that this marks the end of the Christmas holiday. One representation of that end is that people put away their crèche–which is a Christmas decoration. Again, leaving up the decorations past this date can bring bad luck, even death. Of course, February 2 is also groundhog day, which at first seems unrelated to all of this, until you recall that the little groundhog (or bear or hedgehog, depending on your location) comes out to check his shadow, which is related to the amount of light.

So…short story made a bit long, there is definitely a date by which, according to various traditions, one should take down their Christmas tree and decorations. Three, in fact. Stop by the Information Desk to do a little research and help you pick which date you’ll use.

I want to see fireworks, can you help? Why, yes I can!

by Maeve Clark on July 3rd, 2015

fireworks21Independence Day is two short days away and one of the best parts of the holiday is fireworks.  Fireworks at home or the neighbor’s house or in a park or campground are not legal, with the exception of sparklers and snakes.  A bill in the Iowa House this past session would have expanded the sale and use of fireworks in the state to include cone fountains, bottle rockets and Roman candles, among others. It passed the House, but did not advance in the Senate.   So you will have to wait until next year if you want to legally explode a cherry bomb or bottle rocket.

For a safe, fun and communal way to view fireworks, your can watch fireworks in Iowa City or a nearby town. On Friday, July 3 you can view them in Kalona: dusk at Shiloh Amphitheater or in  Oxford: dusk at Creekside Park, but the majority of the fireworks take place on July 4.  Here are the locations and times: Coralville: dark at S.T. Morrison Park, Hills: 9:05 p.m. at the Ballpark, Iowa City: 9:30-9:45 p.m. Hubbard Park (next to the University of Iowa Memorial Union), North Liberty: No display planned, but will have a hot air balloon glow at 8:30 p.m. July 11 as part of North Liberty Blues & BBQ and Solon: dusk over Lake McBride.

Have a great Fourth of July and if you do decide to shot off a bottle rocket or two, be safe out there.