A Swedish Christmas tradition since 1960

In Sweden, since 1960, something has happened every day in the run up to Christmas. A tv series called ‘Julkalendern’ – Christmas calendar- is broadcast early in the mornings from Dec 1 to Dec 24. Sent in 15 minute episodes, it is a different story each year and often stars some of Sweden’s leading actors and comedians. It is very popular amongst children, and is a cozy seasonal tradition. After each episode, viewers can open the relevant door in their advent calendar, which accompanies the program. The stories can vary widely, but most usually there is a Christmas / winter theme and a moral message suited to the time of year.

‘Julkalendern’ sits deep in the souls and psyche of many Swedes. Most cherish fond childhood memories of getting up in the dark to watch an episode before heading off to school. In 1999, a competition was launched to identify the most popular ‘julkalender’ of all time. The winner was a spooky ghost story called ‘the mystery of Greveholm’. Closely behind were ‘Sune’s Christmas’, ‘The old woman who shrunk to the size of a teaspoon’ and ‘Magical times’.

This year, the story is called ‘Hunt for the crystal of time’ and is starring a very popular, recently-deceased Swedish actor as the obligatory evil bad guy. In the series, he plans to stop time the day before Christmas Eve and the only people who can stop him are three children who have to journey to the center of the universe to do so.

It’s all very exciting – what if they fail?! There will be no Christmas ever again!

We’d all better hope they succeed! In just 5 days, we’ll find out!!!!

‘Julkalendern’ can be watched on SvtPlay you’d like to catch up!

Sweden’s insatiable appetite for Eurovision

Sweden must be the country that can call itself Eurovision fan number 1.

So insatiable is the thirst for ‘schlager’, as it is called in Swedish, that the journey towards the May 2018 final began today.

Today, it was announced in a live press conference who will be participating in ‘Melodifestivalen’ – the competition to choose Sweden’s representative. So insatiable is the thirst for ‘schlager’ that there are 28 contestants! 28!

According to the papers, the artists are a mixture of ‘new-comers, classic singers, comebacks, former winners, favourites and LGBT surprises!’ Also, oddly, a parody band and a fat tv cook.

So insatiable is Sweden’s thirst for ‘schlager’ that these 28 contestants start competing with each other in February – in 6 live televised competitions! February Saturday nights in Sweden are ruined for the uninitiated.

The weeks leading up to the Eurovision Song Contest are then filled with Eurovision trivia. So insatiable. Interviews with Sweden’s chosen representative, behind the scenes programs and analysis of every single one of the other countries’ songs grace our televisions. Then finally, once we are already saturated, the two semi finals come. God forbid Sweden doesn’t qualify. Then finally, the final comes. And Sweden usually lands somewhere in the top 10. Then comes the analysis.

Finally sometime at the beginning of June, we are released from the jaws of Eurovision. The summer comes and is filled with ‘schlager’ tours and festivals. And in November, it all kicks off again.

That’s life in the insatiable ‘schlager’ country of Sweden.

Come dine with me, my place 7.30

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As a Brit, I sometimes experience differences between myselves and Swedes. But this has never been more apparent than in the two TV cooking shows ‘Come Dine with Me’ in English and its equivalent Swedish program *Halv åtta hos mig’ (My place, 7.30).

Watching these two shows, many differences are obvious. The shows shine a very clear light on the differences between the UK and Sweden. The shows have the same format and are part of the same franchised concept, but cultural differences make them into two totally different programs.

The educationally entertaining Swedish program has the following:

  1. A focus on the food and the interesting recipes
  2. Polite, if somewhat stilted conversation, mostly about the food
  3. A female narrator that is slighty, but not too, sarcastic
  4. Participants who are friendly and polite and seem to have things in common with each other
  5. Participants ‘dressed up’ very nicely for the occasion
  6. Homes that are Nordically cool, clean and well-organized
  7. Carefully selected wine for the dinner, and not too much alcohol so that participants can focus on the food

The hysterical British version has the following:

  1. A focus on getting drunk and arguing with each other, the food is secondary
  2. Confrontational, loud conversation (as people are drunk) about all subjects under the sun, often toilets and sex and very little about the food
  3. A male narrator that is a complete bitch about the contestants and personally attacks the participants’ appearance
  4. Participants who have been cast for the show as they are complete opposites, very opinionated and at each others’ throats from the very first evening
  5. Participants often wearing themed fancy dress, such as prostitutes, Alice in Wonderland, disco, bling, pirates, gangsters. Often lots of short skirts and cleavage.
  6. Homes that are quirky at best, and unhygenic at worst
  7. Wine, wine, wine, vodka, gin, wine, wine, wine

Now what cultural conclusions can we draw about the Swedes and the Brits from these differences?

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