The Most Popular Holiday Toys of the Past 35 Years

JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images
JOYCE NALTCHAYAN/AFP/Getty Images

From Tamagotchis to Teddy Ruxpin, everyone remembers the most coveted holiday toys from their childhood—the toys that, whether you knew it then or not, your parents stood in line for hours to buy or paid premium prices for (it's not too late to thank them).

Online coupon site and shopping portal Ebates took a festive walk down memory lane to pay tribute to the most impossible-to-find toys of holiday seasons past, beginning with 1983's Cabbage Patch Kids craze and leading up to last year's Nintendo NES Classic. How many did you own?

The Most Popular Toys Through the Decades

Arlington National Cemetery Needs Donations and Volunteers for Its Annual Wreath Laying

Win McNamee/Getty Images
Win McNamee/Getty Images

For more than a quarter of a century, wreaths have been used to mark the holiday season at Virginia's Arlington National Cemetery. The 2018 wreath laying ceremony will take place on Saturday, December 15, and WTOP reports that the nonprofit organization Wreaths Across America is still looking for donations and volunteers ahead of this year's event.

Holiday wreaths were first laid on the graves of U.S. veterans at Arlington in 1992. That year, the owner of a wreath company in Maine realized he would have a surplus of wreaths for the holidays and wanted to donate them to a worthy cause. Working with Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, he had the decorations sent to Washington, D.C. and placed in front of Arlington graves that had seen fewer visitors in recent years.

Today, wreaths are assigned to graves throughout the cemetery. Arlington has the second highest number of occupants of any U.S. national cemetery, and more veterans are laid to rest there each year. In 2018, Wreaths Across America will be placing 253,000 wreaths, one for each marker and columbarium column.

In order to reach their goal, the organization is calling on donors to help fund the effort. Wreaths are available to sponsor through Wreaths Across America's website for $15, and 25,000 more sponsorships are needed to provide wreaths for every grave site. The group is also looking for volunteers for the actual wreath laying. The ceremony begins at 8 a.m. on December 15, and volunteers aren't required to sign up before lending a hand.

[h/t WTOP]

The Christmas Book Flood: Iceland’s Literature-Loving Holiday Tradition

iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov
iStock.com/Viktor_Gladkov

In Iceland, the most popular Christmas gifts aren't the latest iProducts or kitchen gadgets. They're books. Each year, Iceland celebrates what’s known as “Jólabókaflóðið:” the annual Yule Book Flood.

The holiday season is the Black Friday of the Icelandic publishing world—but it’s not just about one day. According to Reader’s Digest, at the beginning of November, each household in Iceland gets a copy of the Bokatidindi, the Iceland Publishers Association’s catalog of all the books that will be published that year, giving residents a chance to pick out holiday books for their friends and family. September to November marks Icelandic publishers’ biggest season, and many sell the majority of their yearly stock leading up to Christmas. Even grocery stores become major booksellers during the Book Flood season.

The Jólabókaflóðið (pronounced YO-la-bok-a-flothe) tradition dates back to post-World War II economic policies. Iceland separated from Denmark in 1918, and didn’t become a fully autonomous republic until 1944. During the Great Depression, the country created a rigid, intricate system of import restrictions, and its protectionist policies continued after the war. High inflation and strict rations on imported goods made it difficult for Icelanders to get their hands on many products. The one imported product that was relatively easy to get? Paper. As a result, books became the nation’s default gift purchase, and they still are, more than half a century later.

The "flood" in Christmas Book Flood has more to do with the deluge of books hitting bookstores than it does a flood of books flowing onto individual bookshelves. To take advantage of the tradition, most hardback books published in Iceland come out in the months leading up to Christmas, when Icelanders will be purchasing them for friends and family. (Cheaper paperbacks often come out a few months later, since people are more apt to buy those for themselves rather than their loved ones, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine’s Hildur Knútsdóttir.)

While family traditions vary from household to household, most Icelanders unwrap a book on December 24, according to Reader’s Digest. Some people get a book for every member of their family, while others do a swap exchange where everyone brings one title and everyone gets to pick one from the pile. After the exchange, many people cozy up with their new volume and get reading, preferably in bed, with chocolate.

As Icelandic writer Alda Sigmundsdóttir explained in a blog post in 2008, people in Iceland “will typically describe the pinnacle of enjoyment as lying in bed eating konfekt [filled chocolates] and reading one of the books they received under the tree. Later, at the slew of Christmas parties that inevitably follow, the Christmas books will be a prominent topic of conversation, and post-Yule the newspapers are filled with evaluations of which books had the best and worst titles, best and worst covers, etc.” Sounds like a pretty good tradition to us.

It’s not surprising that Iceland places such high importance on giving and receiving books. The country reads and publishes more books per capita than any other nation in the world, and one in 10 Icelanders have published a book themselves. (There’s an Icelandic adage, “ad ganga med bok I maganum,” that means “everyone gives birth to a book.” Well, technically it means “everyone has a book in their stomach,” but same idea.)

But the glut of books that flood the Icelandic market during the latter months of the year may not be as completely joyful as it sounds, some critics warn—at least not when it comes to the stability of the publishing market. Iceland is a nation of just 338,000 people, and there are more books than there are people to buy them. Some publishers, faced with a lack of space to store the unsold books, have had to resort to destroying unpurchased stock at the end of the holiday season. But marketing books outside of Yuletime is a relatively budding practice, one that Icelandic presses are still adapting to. It’s hard to beat the prospect of curling up after Christmas dinner with a freshly opened book and a bunch of chocolates, after all.

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