anna brones

writer + artist + activist

Posts Tagged ‘Christmas

Jólabókaflóð

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When it’s cold outside, there’s the gentle call of curling up with a book and a mug of tea or coffee (or even a glass of wine or a beer). Reading is wonderful any time of year, but if I was going to pick a reading season, winter would certainly be it; when it’s cold and dark, we want to curl up with a good story.

Maybe it’s the cold darkness of the north that has led to Iceland’s popular Jólabókaflóð, otherwise known as the “Christmas book flood.” Not only are many new titles released this time of year, but the majority of Icelandic book sales happen at this time, everyone prepping to gift a book come Christmas.

The tradition has its roots in World War II, when many imported items were heavily regulated, but paper remained fairly inexpensive. The book became the holiday gift of choice, and it still is today.

It all kicks off when the Iceland Publishers Association distributes a free copy of Bokatidindi  – the annual catalog of new book releases – to every single Icelandic household. It’s a season of book buying and book giving. “It’s considered a total flop Christmas if you do not get a book,” Icelandic writer Yrsa Sigurðardóttir told Read it Forward. Just imagine if children (and adults for that matter) were upset because they didn’t get a book as opposed to whatever new version of iGadget was on their list.

Having a culture of books and reading comes with many benefits. 93% of Icelanders read at least one book a year, compared with only 73% of Americans. (To put that another way, one of of four Americans isn’t reading at least one book a year.) Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world, and one out of 10 Icelanders will publish a book in their lifetime.

For those of us who don’t live in Iceland, how about creating our own book flood this holiday?

Start by visiting the library. Find a book you didn’t know you wanted to read.

If you read and feel inspired to write, do so.

And finally, in the spirit of not consuming (although, if you are going to buy presents, books are a pretty good option, and remember to be sure to support your local independent book retailer), here’s one final prompt for today to kick of your own Christmas book flood:

Go to your bookcase. Find a book that you loved reading, but are willing to part with. Think of someone who would enjoy reading it. Package it up, and take it to the post on Monday, or gift it to them in person. If there’s one thing better than reading a good book, it’s sharing one with someone else.

This post originally appeared in my 24 Days of  Making, Doing and Being advent calendar. To receive it, sign up for my newsletter

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Written by Anna Brones

December 12, 2017 at 10:03

24 Days of Making, Doing and Being: A Digital Advent Calendar

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The month of December has a tendency to pass in a flurry, the main focus concentrated on Christmas Day. The other days pass in anticipation, and often, a stress inducing countdown. December has become an extension of our overbooked, over-planned, over-digitized lives; a month where chaos and stress levels collide.

It’s cliché to say that we’ve forgotten the true meaning of Christmas, that today, Christmas is an over-commercialized affair that’s about the procurement of things rather than generosity, caring and celebrating.

Given this frenzy, it’s no surprise that Christmas advertising and marketing works; it sells a cozy, slow image that we’re all craving. Families in pajama sets sitting by the fire smiling at each other (if only you invested in those pajamas, your family would be happy too). A cup of tea on the windowsill overlooking a snowy morning (make sure to buy this particular brand on tea, or your mornings won’t look like this). A couple on a winter walk through the woods (trust us, you can’t go on one of these walks without buying these boots).

Here’s the secret to that kind of living: you can’t buy your way to that feeling, you have to create it yourself.

For me, part of creating that seasonal magic has come in the form of an advent calendar. Growing up, every December meant the enjoyment of an advent calendar. There would always be more than one. Often, a beautifully illustrated one sent from relatives in Sweden, and the other one was an advent calendar that my mother had woven, each day made to hold a small slip of paper. My parents would write a note every night, so that it was the first thing I saw when I woke up the next morning. The note might say something fun that we would do that day (“build a gingerbread house”) or just be a reminder to enjoy the season (“curl up with a book and a cup of tea”). The advent wasn’t a countdown to Christmas, it was a way of making every day during the month of December special.

I have had that advent calendar hanging on the wall every single December since I can remember. Today, it’s a link to the past, an object that carries a lot of magical childhood memories. But it’s also a reminder of the present, the prompt to focus on the now and create a little magic every day during the holiday season.

This is a time of year focused on consumption. It’s a time of year that can be stressful. It’s a time of year that’s frantic. The U.S. version of my book Live Lagom comes out at the end of December, and I have been thinking a lot about how lagom applies to the holidays. Certainly, it means a little indulgence, in the form of a plethora of holiday cookies and glögg, Swedish mulled wine. But it also means balance. It means slowing down, spending time with family, taking winter walks. All the things that we often tell ourselves we will do, but never make the time for.

So this year, I’m putting together a digital advent calendar that’s focused on slowing down, creating and experiencing rather than consuming. The advent calendar will be in newsletter format, sent out every morning. It will include everything from holiday recipes to creative prompts, something new every day. You’re sure to find a little Scandinavian inspiration as well. The goal with this advent calendar is to help you create a little magic every day during the month of December, but also focus on slowing down, finding balance, breathing.

It all kicks off on Friday, December 1, 2017, so if you want to receive the advent calendar, be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

 

Written by Anna Brones

November 29, 2017 at 11:21

Glad Lucia!

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It’s Lucia Day in Sweden which means on the other side of the Atlantic it’s time for singing the Lucia song and baking saffron bread. And drinking glögg of course.

Saffransbröd – Saffron Bread adapted from Vår Kokbok

Almond paste

  • 1 cup blanched almonds
  • 1/3 cup sugar

Mix almonds and sugar in Cuisinart or blender until a chunky paste forms. Set aside.

Saffransbröd – Saffron Bread

  • 1/2 gram saffron
  • 75 grams butter
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 teaspoons yeast
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3 cups flour
  • Currants for decoration

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Written by Anna Brones

December 13, 2011 at 09:30

God Jul!

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Sweden has snow and weather in the negative teens. Here in the Northwest it’s dark and rainy. The perfect time for candles, mandelmusslor, saffransbröd and glögg.

God Jul!

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Written by Anna Brones

December 24, 2010 at 11:25

Winter Sunset

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Frost covered the ground for the larger part of the day, a white dusting remaining in cold corners protected by the shade of trees. Typical Pacific Northwest gray rain clouds were traded for clear winter skies, a brisk nip in the air. On beautiful days like this, it’s clear that the evening landscape shouldn’t be missed, and we packed up a thermos of tea and headed for one of the many rocky beaches of the Puget Sound.

Quiet and clear, as afternoon turned into dusk, the seasonal sun set, with warm colors reflecting off of soft clouds, turning the sky into a winter painting. With the setting sun, the air turned colder, and steam rose from our tea cups as we looked out over the calm waters and breathed in the winds of the season.

That’s how you should spend Christmas Day…

Written by Anna Brones

December 26, 2009 at 13:10

God Jul!

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A classic Swedish Christmas in a Pacific Northwest home tucked away in the winter forest…

God Jul!

Written by Anna Brones

December 24, 2009 at 13:02