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CHRISTMAS

Santa’s elves get busy at Sweden’s post office

By Christmas, Posten, the Swedish postal service, expects to have received more than 100,000 letters from children all over the world addressed to Santa Claus.

While Finland has these days cornered the market as the official home of the man in red, Santa’s legendary home is traditionally said to be in Lapland, which covers parts of northern Finland, Sweden and Norway. This means that Posten is a major destination for children’s letters.

Santa, or Jultomten as he’s called in Swedish, honours all the young writers with a response, in Swedish or English, and a little gift. Last year the children got a small puzzle.

In the pile are letters and cards from children in the U.S., Netherlands, Slovenia, Argentina and Japan.

“Thank you for all the things you gave me last year…” one letter from an English child begins.

Foreign kids are usually very polite, telling Santa that they have been good little boys or girls, while the Swedish kids are more to the point, just sending Santa their wish list, says Anette Eriksson, Christmas communications specialist with Posten.

One letter this year has come from a Japanese student, who wrote Santa to practice her English. She didn’t ask for anything, but enclosed some origami ornaments for Father Christmas. Another letter was from a 6-year-old Argentinean boy, who asked for toys not only for himself, but also for the poor kids in his neighbourhood.

Scarlett from Britain wrote:

“I will leave you some Coke, milk, chocolate biscuits and a carrot. Have a lovely Christmas.”

Many of the Swedish kids also enclose a map to their house, Eriksson said.

“If they have moved, they are worried that Santa won’t find them,” she said.

The foreign kids often include a mention of Rudolph, but mention of the red-nosed reindeer is rare in the Swedish letters.

The items on the wish lists are remarkably similar, with children from all over the world asking, not surprisingly, for video games.

A nicer sister, a spy, a door to one’s bedroom and a broom that can clean by itself, are some of the more creative items on the children’s wish lists.

All children who include an eligible return address will get a response from Santa. To ensure it keeps that promise, the postal service hires about 15 extra workers to read and respond to the many children who still are believers.

“We call them Santa’s elves,” Eriksson said.

It all started in 1891 with Jultomten, a magazine intended to stimulate youngsters, published by a teachers union. Then like now, little children were encouraged to write in and Santa was a popular recipient. So popular in fact, that when the magazine ceased to exist, the Swedish postal service felt obliged to keep the tradition going.

“We do this to encourage letter-writing,” Eriksson said. “Often, it’s the very first time a child writes a letter and we want that to be a positive experience. We want them to get something in return.”

All first-grade teachers in Sweden get an invitation to encourage students to write Santa. Red mail boxes with Santa’s name on them are strategically located across Sweden.

The first letters start trickling in by springtime, Eriksson said. By late November there is a steady flow and two weeks before Christmas the dams burst.

Eriksson insists that processing the letters doesn’t cost much, though she would not volunteer a figure. She said that the red Santa mailboxes are located next to regular mailboxes and won’t require additional routes. Posten employs extra people to deal with Christmas correspondence anyway.

“We are basically just using existing resources,” she says.

Santa’s elves are a shy bunch. All declined several requests of interviews and refused to reveal their identities.

“It’s something of an honour assignment, many come back year after year,” Eriksson said. “They just don’t want people to know who they are. I think they want to keep it a mystery.”

And who knows, maybe it really is Santa or Santa’s elves that are responding to all these letters. Perhaps they just don’t have time to be interviewed…

This year’s top-five Christmas list items:

Girls:

1) Doll or a Barbie

2) Pet

3) Stuffed animal

4) Video, or computer games

5) Clothes

Boys:

1) Cars, racing track, other vehicle

2) Video, or computer games

3) Lego

4) Sports items

5) Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh!

Source: Posten AB

Majsan Boström

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CHRISTMAS

Sweden’s best Christmas markets for 2021

After many Christmas markets were cancelled last season, you may be wondering where you will be able to get this year's dose of Christmas cheer. Here are our suggestions for some of Sweden's best Christmas markets.

snow on stockholm's gamla stan christmas market
Stockholm Old Town's Christmas market may be one of Europe's oldest. Photo: Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se

SOUTHERN SWEDEN

1. Malmö Mitt Möllan

The trendy and multicultural area of Möllevången in Sweden’s third biggest city has become the spot for a special Christmas market for those looking for a modern and hipster-ish atmosphere. The Mitt Möllan traders’ association organises a market that promises art, culture, food and fashion. Busy that weekend? Malmö’s traditional annual Christmas market in Gustav Adolfs square, focusing on local products, is being held in three sessions, from December 9th-12th, 16th-19th and 20-23rd. 

When: December 2nd-5th

Tickets: Free

2. Kalmar Castle, Kalmar

This spectacular 800-year-old castle has established itself as one of the largest Christmas markets in Sweden. For four days, the whole building will be opened to the public and visitors get the chance to wander around in the historic decorated halls. Listen to Christmas and winter music, and walk around the castle and visit some of the about 120 craftsmen from all over Sweden who set up their stands and sell handmade items. 

When: November 25th-28th

Tickets: 90 kronor (free for under-12s)

Kalmar Castle in Småland provides a scenic location for one of Sweden’s largest Christmas markets. Photo: Emmy Jonsson/Scandinav Bildbyrå/imagebank.sweden.se

Katrinetorps Landeri, also known as Gourmetgården, is Malmö’s Christmas market for foodies. This market, situated in the house and gardens of Katrinetorp, built in the 1800s, will have a focus on Christmassy food such as glögg (mulled wine), as well as a horse and cart, antiques, a Lucia parade and dancing around the Christmas tree. They will also be offering their own handmade products in their deli.

When: December 3-5th

Tickets: 80 kronor for adults, free for children under 15

4. Jul på Bosjökloster, Höör

Christmas at Bosjökloster monastery is also back for 2021! As in previous years, this market will feature Christmas concerts in the church, as well as locally produced gifts and food for perfect Christmas gifts. Visitors will also be able to eat a traditional Swedish julbord, meet Santa, ride a horse and cart and “look for presents in the maze”. This market is taking place on the first weekend of advent, meaning you can start getting into the Christmas spirit as early as November!

When: November 26th-28th

Tickets: 100 kronor for adults, dropping to 50 kronor after 2pm on Sunday and free after 3pm on Sunday. Free for children under 16. Over-65s pay 80 kronor on Friday

CENTRAL SWEDEN

5. Liseberg theme park, Gothenburg

Sweden’s biggest amusement park, Gothenburg attraction Liseberg, lights up every year with millions of Christmas candles. A traditional Christmas Market and an old-fashioned Christmas market in different areas of the park offer everything from carol singing to pony carousel rides. Ice shows, Santa’s grotto, an ice skating rink and the park’s rabbits are sure to keep your little ones entertained. More information here.

When: Thursdays-Sundays between November 19th and December 30th. Check website for more details.

Tickets: Entrance from 95 kronor (free for children up to 110 centimetres) to 245 kronor for unlimited rides. The price varies depending on which day you visit as well as whether you want to go on the rides or not.

 

Gothenburg’s Liseberg theme park is host to a Christmas market complete with festive lights. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/Scanpix/TT

6. Skansen, Stockholm

Take the ferry over to Stockholm’s Djurgården island from Slussen and stroll over to Skansen, Europe’s biggest outdoor museum, which has organized its own Christmas market since 1903. It’s a great place to snap up some presents in the form of traditional Swedish arts and crafts, as well as having a feel of how Christmas was celebrated in the past.

When: Fridays-Sundays between November 26th and December 19th.

Tickets: 70 kronor for children aged 4-15, 160 kronor for adults and 140 kronor for concessions.

7. Old Town, Stockholm

Around 40 stands set up shop right in the middle of Stockholm’s Old Town ahead of the festive season, selling Swedish Christmas sweets, smoked reindeer, elk meat, a range of Swedish handicrafts and decorative arts, and much more. The setting alone is enough to get anyone into a romantic Christmas mood. This market might actually be one of the oldest in Europe, since the first Christmas market in the square was held as early as 1523 (although it started in its current format in 1837).

When: November 20th-December 23rd

Tickets: Free

8. Wadköping Christmas Market, Örebro

The Wadköping outdoor museum, which is an echo of what Örebro looked like centuries ago, organises a Christmas market full of the usual traditions: Christmas decorations, sausages, cheeses and arts and crafts. 2021’s Christmas market will also feature outdoor Christmas songs and pony riding.

When: November 21st and 28th, December 5th and 12th

Tickets: Free

NORTHERN SWEDEN

9. Gammelstads Kyrkstad, Luleå

Brave the cold (and it will be cold) for a Christmas market in the far north of Sweden. The Gammelstad Church Town is the country’s largest and best preserved church town, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is over 400 years old, and comprises of 405 cottages, six stables and a privy, sprawling around a large medieval stone church. The Christmas market takes place at the Hägnan open air museum, where around 80 exhibitors sell products from home-baked goods to arts and crafts. Visitors this year will be able to make their own candles, meet Santa and go on a candle-lit walking tour through the museum.

When: December 4th-5th

Tickets: 30 kronor

10. Jokkmokk Christmas Market, Jokkmokk

Jokkmokk is located in the north of Sweden, in the Arctic Circle. It is an important place for the Sami people, the only indigenous population in Scandinavia. It is famous for its winter market in February, which first took place in 1605. At their recently-established Christmas market, held in celebration of the winter solstice, visitors will find traditional Sami handicrafts – called duodji – and learn more about their history and culture.

When: December 11th-12th

Tickets: Free

Traditional Sami handicrafts – called guksi or kåsa – wooden drinking cups available at the Jokkmokk Christmas and winter markets. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/Scanpix/TT
 

11. Christmas Market at Nordanå, Skellefteå

Are you in Skellefteå this December? Pay a visit to the Christmas market at Nordanå, which started in 1975. It is particularly known for its arts and crafts, and in past years visitors have been able to buy handmade ceramics, knitted baby clothes, and tin thread jewellery.

When: December 5th

Tickets: Free

12. Christmas Market at Västerbotten Museum, Umeå

This Umeå museum dedicated to the region of Västerbotten organises its annual Christmas market again. It promises a candy shop, horse-drawn carriage rides, a bakehouse and more than 80 artisans selling locally produced food and quality wares. Hungry visitors can also learn about what Christmas dinner from this region may have looked like in the 1870s.

When: December 4th-5th

Tickets: Free

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