Swedish press makes fools of its readers

Sweden's journalists were in jovial mood as they marked April Fools' Day. Newspapers around the country jostled to catch out their more gullible readers with improbable yarns.

Dagens Nyheter upset readers in Skåne with the news that they will be forced to pay an additional energy tax since the government is losing so much alcohol tax thanks to cheap booze imports from Denmark. The paper reported that teetotalers were to be asked to send in a declaration of their sobreity, which would allow them to escape the new tax.

Värmlands Folkblad tricked sports fans into believing that Olympic high-jump hero Stefan Holm was to be stripped of his title for not wearing the official kit at the games.

“But I tell you this,” they quoted Holm as saying, “they’re going to have to rip the gold medal from my cold dead hands.”

Katrineholm’s Kuriren wrote of plans to build a statue of Prime Minister Göran Persson with money earmarked for the building of a new ice arena, Uppsala Nya Tidning said that the Royal Palace was to be converted into student flats, and Expressen recommended that its readers throw out the suncream and smear themselved with avocado instead.

Naturally, The Local could not resist getting in on the act. Our offering is below – were you caught out?

Swedish government proposes “moving Christmas”

Photographer: Richard Ryan / Copyright:  Stockholm Visitors Board / Source:

Photo: Richard Ryan / Copyright: Stockholm Visitors Board / Source:

As part of a raft of measures designed to increase tourism to Sweden’s major cities, the government has proposed moving Christmas to February.

“It may seem radical but there are so many potential benefits that it’s worth giving consideration to the question,” said the state secretary for tourism in the ministry of industry, Bengt Andersson.

The government is concerned that the number of foreign tourists visiting Sweden plummets in the winter, with only 1.5 million “tourist nights” in December compared to almost 4 million in both July and August.

Around 126,000 people are employed year-round in Sweden’s tourist industry, which has an annual turnover of over 150 billion kronor.

“It’s a question of marketing,” said Andersson. “The fact is, the major tourist destinations just don’t get the snow they need to be the picture-perfect Christmas wonderlands that seasonal holidaymakers want.”

Citing figures from the Swedish meteorological office, SMHI, Andersson said that a good depth of snow in Stockholm and Gothenburg was “twice as likely in mid-February as at the end of December”.

“If Christmas were as flexible as Easter, we’d have a lot more options,” he said. “For a start, by moving it to mid-February Swedish cities wouldn’t be competing for Christmas tourists with the likes of Prague and Vienna.”

Andersson pointed out that the expansion of the EU has made the Baltic countries and Poland more attractive destinations too.

The Association of Swedish Hoteliers declared itself firmly behind the proposal. In a press release, the group said that “everyone would benefit”.

“Moving Christmas to February would be good news for our members, good news for tourists and good news for shoppers who would benefit from being able to buy presents during the January sales,” said press officer Gunilla Persson.

The idea has also won support from the leader of Sweden’s Pagan Council, Stig Ormsten.

“It’s about bloody time ‘Jul’ was returned to its rightful place in February,” he said.

But, predictably, the government is already facing opposition to the plan.

The chairman of the influential Christian Business Alliance, Johan Nilsson, said that while he would run naked through the streets of Stockholm if he thought it would increase tourism, he felt that moving Christmas was fundamentally wrong.

“Naturally we support commercial progress and everyone acknowledges that Christmas is nicer when it snows,” he said.

“But moving it altogether seems over the top. There must be another way to solve the problem – like shipping snow in from the north.”

The government will be putting its proposal before parliament on Thursday morning. Bengt Andersson said he believes that the government will get the support it needs to introduce the new Christmas in 2007.

“Considering Santa is based in Swedish Lappland, we really ought to be making more of this,” he said.