The people of Iceland have kept up a lovely tradition of writing letter-style obituaries, in which the obituarist writes a message directly to the obituee. These messages are warm and sincere, but they’re not sappy or unduly sorrowful. Above all, each letter is unique, reflecting the obituee, the writer, and the way in which they knew each other. No doubt Icelanders would find our reliance on obituary templates…well, chilly (for more on templates, see this post). This popular practice in Iceland is called “writing after” the deceased person. Each obituee ends up having several obituaries written for him or her by various friends, colleagues, and family members. Major daily newspapers in Iceland publish all of these obituaries free of charge. On any given day, the tributes for a single ordinary person may take up more space in the paper than news and politics combined. Obituaries in Iceland’s largest daily newspaper, for instance, often eat up 10 pages per issue. The newspapers recognize that publishing these obituaries draws readers to the site (or retains those who subscribe to the print edition), where they click to read other stories, driving up ad revenue.

Reading the daily obituaries—all 10 pages of them—is an important cultural tradition in Iceland. In fact, about one-third of the country’s adult population reads the obituaries section daily. Don’t worry about all those trees, though. Most Icelanders are both tech savvy and environmentally conscious—they prefer the online edition of the paper.

(Image courtesy Pixabay/SandraLina.)