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SWEDE OF THE WEEK

CHRISTMAS

The Sarah Dawn Finer things at Christmas

For the festive special of our new Swede of the Week series, we take a look at singer Sarah Dawn Finer who bagged the most sought after seasonal job on Swedish television.

The Sarah Dawn Finer things at Christmas

“Look mummy! It’s Christmas!” the small girl said as Sarah Dawn Finer walked into the post office.

Such is the role of the “Christmas Host” on television each year that the child simply equated the well-known singer with the holiday itself.

It was a somewhat nervous but happy-looking Finer who popped up on television sets across Sweden this year at five minutes to 2pm. That’s when hosts after a short preamble light a candle to kick off the Christmas special broadcast on Sveriges Television (SVT).

The broadcast runs throughout the afternoon of Christmas Eve, with the host presenting a series of traditional programmes to viewers around Sweden.

“My nephew was upset that I wasn’t going to be home for Christmas Eve,” the half-English half-American singer told Svenska Dagbladet newspaper in the run-up to Christmas.

“But I’m able to be with and touch people all over Sweden in a way I didn’t think was possible.”

CLICK HERE FOR MORE IMAGES FROM SARAH DAWN FINER’S CAREER

She began by telling the viewers the story of her post-office encounter, then it was time for the candle. She had failed to light it during rehearsals and as the producer told her there was three minutes left until going live she felt utter panic.

It might sound ever so simple, but few have ever lit a candle with almost 4 million people watching. And she did it. No dropped matches, scorched finger tips or fiddling with a limp wick.

Finer is no stranger to Swedish television viewers. She was only seven when she got a role in the series Maskrosbarnen (The Dandelion Children) and some years later took part in the iconic stories of Bert.

But singing was always part of her life, and she toured with her sister throughout her adolescence.

She says that for her, Christmas is less about religion and more about family – and of course, listening to music. Her Christmases mix Swedish traditions with those from her father’s England and from her mother’s native US.

She credits them for her tenacity.

“Both my parents have shown me that anything is possible by moving here and building a life,” Finer told SvD.

“I’ll always feel a certain degree of alienation here because I’m different, not the norm.”

Yet, if Finer was Swedish Christmas this year, she has for the past few years been strongly associated with the most Swedish of all musical bonanzas – the Eurovision qualifiers Melodifestivalen, which stretches the breadth and width of the country and feeds its fodder to the tabloids on every step of the way.

At first she was a contestant, performing in 2007 with I Remember Love, which came in fourth. With her second try in 2009, with the song Moving On, she again made it into the finals but finished only seventh.

Despite never earning the singer prime position, both songs clung on and were the most played tunes on radio in their respective years.

Her role in this year’s outing was somewhat different. She took centre stage right from the start as one of three co-hostesses alongside actress Helena Bergström and comedienne Gina Darawi.

Despite the glittering list of successes, she has admitted to insecurity in previous interviews. She even calls herself fragile. And when she was interviewed by Elle Magazine following her Eurovision hostess stint, she could not hide a certain self-consciousness.

“In everyday life I wear a lot of black, often a leather jacket some tights and a black dress. I’m not very good with clothes. Clothes take time when you need to work magic,” she told Elle.

Her go-to designer is the legendary Swedish dressmaker Camilla Thulin, who has sewn her made-to-order dresses for almost a decade. If she were to raid any of the Hollywood A-listers’ closets it would have to be “curvy women like Jill Scott, Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson and Oprah.”

Oprah also gets a peek in on a list of inspirational women that Elle asked her to share. As does Madonna. And her mum.

The musical inspiration list is a few inches longer: Eva Cassidy, Jay-Z, Anna Ternhem, D’angelo, Ryan Adams… although Stevie Wonder and Tracy Chapman are the ones to snag a joint first place.

Take a look at our past Swedes of the Week.

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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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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