The Swedish Christmas television traditions have begun in 2012. (Believe me, there are some unusual televsion shows “traditionally” watched around Christmas. I’ll write more about those another time.) But Christmas Calendar is made every year and is kinda cool. I’m keeping up this year and as I write this, two episodes have aired.
Christmas calendar (Julkalendern) is a children’s TV series that used to be called Advent Calendar (Adventskalendern ) has been broadcast by Sweden’s Television (Sveriges Television) since 1960. It is definitely a much-loved Swedish holiday tradition and i know many people who look forward to watching it every year. The show is in Swedish and you can turn on Swedish subtitles but there is no English text.
Each year there is a new story told in 24 episodes and a new episode is broadcast each day, December 1 – 24. You might already know that the big day of Christmas in Sweden is actually Christmas Eve so that’s why it triumphantly ends on the 24th. December 24 is when Santa comes through the door with presents which are then instantly unwrapped. (There are feasts and such on Christmas Day but since we are talking about children, let’s face it, Christmas Eve is the big day.)
Advent calendars are popular in Sweden. The stores all sell a paper version that complements the radio and tv series every year. Each day you open a window and get a picture of something that has something to do with what’s happening in the series.
For the past 20 years, they have sold the tv series on video a number of months after Christmas. Here’s a picture of the DVD cover from last year’s series:
Last year’s “The Thieves’ Christmas” (Tjuvarnas jul) was very popular. It was a Dickens-like story about a thief named Kurre and his little daughter Charlie. It had an average viewing figure of 1.887 million – the highest ever for a Christmas Calendar, according to Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish).
This year’s series is called “The Count’s Return” (Grevens återkomst). It is sequel to “Mystery of Greveholm” from 1996 which was twice voted the best Christmas Calendar. The story centers around a family that moves into a haunted castle.
Not Just for Kids
Actually, Christmas Calendar is not just for kids. Adults enjoy watching it as well. The show also sometimes walks a thin line between being mildly scary and very funny. In an article published about this year’s series in Dagens Nyheter (in Swedish) Director, Dan Zethraeus, said “Most children would prefer to see the Advent calendar together with their parents and we want to give the parents a little extra something, too.” Zethraeus acknowledged that he read on Facebook that “some people who were children in 1996 [commented that they] ran and hid behind the couch at home when it got too scary. So this series will have some episodes with warning flags. But it must be a bit scary if it will be enough excitement. This Advent calendar is primarily designed for children between seven and twelve years. Today’s seven year olds have seen many scary things to the movies, such as Lord of the Rings. Zethraeus promises a cliffhanger in every episode
Here’s a link to this year’s series on SVTPlay. This is free* within Sweden (*see my post on the Swedish TV and radio license fee). For copyright reasons, if you are abroad, you can see many but not all programs on SVTPlay. Post a comment if you can see it in your country. I’m curious.