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.