Twenty years of Christmas gift joy and tears

The unveiling each November of the Christmas Present of the Year has become an institution as Swedish as overconsumption of herring at the seasonal smörgåsbord. Michael Aiossa looks at twenty years of gifts – from the gee whizz of the GPS to the aching disappointment of the bread machine.

In case you missed it, the Swedish Retail Institute’s Christmas Present of the Year for 2008 is “an experience”:

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the gift report, The Local caught up with project manager Emma Hernell to get her thoughts on the Institute’s past predictions for what Swedes would want most for Christmas each year.

When did they get it right, managing to accurately capture the zeitgeist of the era? And when did they get it very wrong? Emma Hernell is the first to admit that things did not get off to an ideal start.

1988 – Bread machine

“This was a big mistake. We thought it would be a big hit, but in fact it was not a success at all. After Christmas, shops had to put the baking machines on sale to get rid of them.”

1989 – Video camera

“Swedes really embraced the video camera. Even though they were large and bulky they took them to midsummer festivals and Christmas parties. It was a real success. “

1990 – Wok

“There was an explosion of Asian cooking during this year. It was the age when Asian cooking came into the Swedish kitchen. Before this time Swedes didn’t eat a lot of Thai and Indian food.”

1991 – CD player

“Swedes were ready to embrace the new technology and move on from record players. It was definitely the must have Christmas gift that year.”

1992 – Video console/games

“This was the year the Playstation and Nintendo entered our living rooms. These games were mainly aimed at young people to play on the home TV. They were quite expensive when they were first released.”

1993 – Perfume

“The Swedish government of the day removed the luxury tax on perfume and there was obviously an interest in buying perfume. Previously, Swedes would wait until they travelled to Germany or Denmark to buy their perfume.”

1994 – Mobile phone

“Before this time mobile phones were really big and heavy. In 1994 we saw the introduction of small and convenient mobile phones, even if they are considered large by today’s standards. It was a really special gift to give somebody because not everybody had one in their pocket. It was the start of a new era for the mobile phone in Sweden.”

1995 – Compact disc

“It took a while for Swedes to convert from buying records to CDs. They were very popular gifts for many years. However, over recent years CD sales have slowed down dramatically.“

1996 – Internet packages

“The internet had become popular during the previous year and it was considered quite special to have the internet at home. Internet packages were expensive at this time so not everybody could afford it.”

1997 Electronic pet

“It was a tremendous success. Remember it was the year Tamagotchi became popular. It was a great gift for young children and it seemed that all children had one. However, the trend disappeared rather quickly.”

1998 – PC games

“These games were more advanced than those in 1992. Players could connect with other players and form teams over the internet. Many of the children that received the TV console games in 1992 had grown up and now were playing these new PC games.”

1999 – Book

“This tremendous success was all due to one book, the Bible. With a new Swedish translation of the Bible published during the year, it was significantly easier to read than its predecessor, which was translated a couple of hundred years earlier.”

2000 – DVD Player

“Like the CD player people were ready to upgrade to the newest technology to watch videos. It was a given success.”

2001 – Tools

“With the increase of home renovation programs on TV, Swedes were inspired to decorate and renovate their homes, and they did this like crazy. Hammers and saws were high on the Christmas list.”

2002 – Cook book

“Thanks to the government reducing taxes on books there was a large increase in sales that year. This, combined with new TV shows such as Mat-Tina and Jamie Oliver, meant cook books were very popular as gifts.”

2003 – Winter hat

“This was one of our most criticized Årets Julklapp (Christmas Presents of the Year). We saw it as a reflection of the increasing sales of fashion accessories in large sport stores. These winter hats were a symbol of fashion for young people. However, many Swedes did not agree that it was Årets Julklapp.”

2004 – Flat screen TV

“It was the first year flat screen TVs outsold traditional large TVs. It was seen as a gift to the entire family. It was also criticized for being Årets Julklapp as they were still very expensive to buy. Maybe we should have waited one year until they had become more affordable.“

2005 – Poker set

“This symbolized a trend in Sweden that had started back in the late 1990s. Many Swedes were into playing poker at that time. It was also becoming increasingly popular to play over the internet.”

2006 – Audio books

“They were becoming more popular with audiences that traditionally did not buy books. For example, audio books could be purchased at gas stations and truck drivers were increasingly buying them. It was a symbol of the times.”

2007 – GPS receiver

“This was very successful. They were becoming much cheaper and easier to use. It was a commodity that almost everybody could appreciate and one that many people did not have.”

2008 – An experience

“This is, for example, a dinner for two gift certificate wrapped inside a nice box. However, what makes it special in 2008 is the availability to buy such a gift in stores such as Claes Ohlsson. Gifts such as balloon rides over Stockholm have become very popular in recent times. We consider such experiences to be Årets Julklapp of 2008.”

So there you have it, twenty years of presents under the Swedish Christmas tree. Even better, you now know exactly what to buy your Swedish friends.

For members


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/


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/

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


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


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