• Sweden edition
 

Introducing...Christmas Tomte

Published: 18 Dec 2006 18:34 GMT+01:00
Updated: 18 Dec 2006 18:34 GMT+01:00

Who is he and why is he famous?

The Christmas Tomte is the Swedish version of Father Christmas, Santa Claus, or whatever you want to call him.

There's a Swedish version?

Yes, and the bearer of gifts in these parts is as much Yule Goat and garden gnome as he is Saint Nicholas.

Yule Goat! Garden gnome! What are you talking about? Have you lost your marbles?

Or as a Swede might ask: do I have tomtes in my loft? But whatever way you put, the answer is no.

Right, explain then.

A tomte is a mythological gnome-like creature found in Nordic folklore. He watched over a farmer's house and barn at night and was usually thought to be an angry, righteous old man of diminutive stature.

A bit like a pint-sized Harold Pinter?

Yes, that's about right. Plus beard.

And the Yule Goat?

Before the Christmas Tomte had made his breakthrough, fathers would dress as Yule Goats and knock on the doors of their middle class homes every Christmas Eve and hand out presents to their children. It's another very old Scandinavian thing.

And when did the Johnny-come-lately Christmas Tomte hit the scene and steal the goat's yuletide thunder?

In the early 1880s. It's all Viktor Rydberg and Jenny Nyström's fault.

Who are they and why did they do it? Why did they kill the goat?

Listen, there was no ritual slaughter or anything like that. Rydberg was a very prominent author and poet in the second half of the 19h century.

I'm thinking Pinter again.

Yeah fine, whatever floats your boat. Anyway, in 1881 Rydberg wrote a poem about a tomte pondering the mysteries of life in mid-winter.

I see, and where does the Nyström woman come in?

Jenny Nyström was an illustrator. A few years earlier, Rydberg had asked her to illustrate one of his Christmas stories. But he didn't care much for the furious little gnome she produced and asked her to soften him up a bit for the Tomte poem.

And did she submit to the whims of her poet friend?

She did. This time her kindly father provided the model and the Christmas Tomte as we know him was born. In no time at all the Yule Goat was out of the picture. The friendly Christmas Tomte, with his red hat and sack of presents, had made the billy goat gruff.

He sounds like a gentle old soul, this Christmas Tomte. I'm losing the Pinter image and thinking more along the lines of Richard Attenborough.

How lovely for you. Anyway, over the years the Christmas Tomte has become more and more like the American version. Incidentally, the man who created the Coca-Cola Santa Claus in the 1930s was called Haddon Sundblom, both of whose parents were Swedish.

Intriguing. And does the Christmas Tomte come charging down the chimney at all hours of the morning?

No, he usually knocks on the door a few minutes after dad has gone out to buy the newspaper on Christmas Eve.

Funny, isn't it? In English-speaking countries if dad 'goes out to get the newspaper'; it probably means he has some floozy waiting for him in the Bahamas and you won't see him again until he has run out of funds, the tart has left him, and he comes looking for his old job back.

Quite. Anyway, the Swedish dad does return, in the form of the Christmas Tomte, and asks: 'Are there any nice children here?'

And are there?

'Yeeeeeesssssss', they all answer. But it's a question of interpretation, isn't it? You can view their affirmative responses with a sort of Pinteresque cynicism or...

Sorry, can I just interrupt to ask you to shut up and stop spoiling Christmas?

Oh, OK.

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right
Today's headlines
Swedish police chase German ambulance
A German ambulance. File photo: TT

Swedish police chase German ambulance

Swedish police took up the chase after a German registered ambulance late Friday night after reports that it had been racing around the forests in Småland with its siren on and lights flashing. READ  

Interview
'The concept of race is a slippery slope': Ullenhag
Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

'The concept of race is a slippery slope': Ullenhag

Integration Minister Erik Ullenhag tells The Local why he plans to remove the term "race" from all Swedish law, how he responds to his critics, and why Sweden must steer clear of xenophobia. READ  

Sweden's tourism figures on the rise for 2014

Sweden's tourism figures on the rise for 2014

Tourism in Sweden is on the rise, with the first half of 2014 seeing a boom in visiting figures for both domestic and foreign tourists. READ  

Northern Dispatches
How I tackled northern Sweden's savage insects

How I tackled northern Sweden's savage insects

Ex-Londoner Paul Connolly has just survived a northern Sweden heat wave. But it wasn't the high temperatures that were the real problem, he recounts. READ  

What's On in Sweden - Pride Parade

What's On in Sweden - Pride Parade

Saturday marks the Stockholm Pride Parade, the biggest event of Pride Week (and the biggest Pride Parade in Scandinavia). Here's what to see and where to be, as well as plenty of other activities in Sweden's three biggest cities for the weekend. READ  

Railway fatalaties on the rise in Sweden
File photo: Carl Dougge/Flickr

Railway fatalaties on the rise in Sweden

Even though Sweden's Traffic Agency has drastic plans to reduce the number of people killed by trains in Sweden, a new report shows that figures are on the rise. READ  

Woman finds Ikea bags stuffed with 80 skeletons

Woman finds Ikea bags stuffed with 80 skeletons

UPDATED: A woman in southern Sweden is furious after stumbling upon scores of skulls and human bones inside Ikea bags in a church. The man who dug up the bones, however, says it's not as bad as it looks. READ  

Swedish Wikipedia jumps to second biggest

Swedish Wikipedia jumps to second biggest

There are now more Swedish Wikipedia entries than any other language in the world, besides English. And there's one Swede who's largely responsible. READ  

Assault with iron pipe 'no hate crime': police
The aftermath of the attack in Seved, Malmö on July 6th 2014. Drago Prvulovic / TT

Assault with iron pipe 'no hate crime': police

Police in southern Sweden have concluded that a man who was beaten with an iron pipe for hanging an Israeli flag in his window was not a victim of a hate crime. READ  

AstraZeneca hikes earnings outlook
Photo: Claus Gertsen/TT

AstraZeneca hikes earnings outlook

After fighting off a fierce takeover bid from Pfizer, Swedish-British drugmaker AstraZeneca raised its 2014 earnings outlook and posted rising second quarter sales on Thursday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Gallery
Stockholm demonstration against Israel
National
Stockholm Pride bars Sweden Democrats
National
Gender neutral pronoun 'hen' enters dictionary
Society
Top ten cafes in Stockholm
People-watching
Gallery
People-watching - Stockholm Pride
Blog updates

31 July

Calling a speedo a speedo (Blogweiser) »

"There are a lot of speedos on Europe’s beaches. Some European males are evidently more comfortable sporting small, stretchy suits on public beaches than I would be. I accept it may be nice to have swimwear that’s not long and cumbersome. A speedo is maybe also good for tanning. But strolling around town in a..." READ »

 

27 July

Approaching Stockholm (Around Sweden in a kayak) »

"I woke up in the comfort of my own little cabin on Eva and Rolf’s boat, it was 7:30am and I was feeling a bit groggy after a couple of beers with all the lovely locals the night before. The previous day had really taken its toll on my body and I was very stiff and..." READ »

 
 
 
Photo: Henrik Trygg/Imagebank Sweden
Society
Sweden worst in EU at getting foreigners jobs
Lifestyle
Stockholm Pride kicks off
Analysis
The top six ways the US and Sweden differ
National
Swedish youth suicides hit 25-year high
National
Politician reported for selling 'negro ball'
National
Police turn blind eye to Swedish 'slave trade'
Gallery
Stockholm Pride: Allsång på Skansen with Conchita Wurst
Skatteverket
Sponsored Article
Introducing... ID cards and permits in Stockholm
Gallery
People-watching, June 26th - 28th. Get inside Stockholm's hottest nightclubs
Gallery
Top ten Swedish taboos
Society
Seven-year-old Swede cycles to Berlin
Politics
'Gaza conflict needs help, not empty rhetoric'
Society
Swedes voted 'most beautiful' in the Nordics
Business & Money
Sweden demands EU clarity on Bitcoin tax
National
Swedish organic sales enjoy 'amazing' growth
Gallery
People-watching July 23
National
Swedish cops elect not to shoot 'angry elks'
Business & Money
New alcohol retail rules threaten micro-breweries
Gallery
People-watching Båstad
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Your finances in Stockholm
Sponsored Article
Introducing... Housing in Stockholm
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

721
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com
If you want to drink, that’s your business.
If you want to stop, we can help.

Learn more about English-language Alcoholics Anonymous in Sweden. No dues. No fees. Confidentiality assured.
AA-EUROPE.ORG/SWEDEN
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at:
http://psdmedia.se