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CHRISTMAS

Debunk: No, Sweden isn’t cancelling a Christmas concert because of migrants

Several international far-right websites claimed that a Swedish Christmas concert had been cancelled in order to avoid offending Muslim migrants. In fact, the cause was a delay on budget and logistics planning from the company behind the event. The Local explores how the story got misrepresented.

Debunk: No, Sweden isn't cancelling a Christmas concert because of migrants
File photo of Sweden at Christmas. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/SCANPIX

The O Helga Natt (Oh, Holy Night) event in Örebro, central Sweden, is the country's biggest open air Christmas concert. It has been held since 2001 and broadcast on TV for ten years, but won't be broadcast this year and it's unclear if it will be held at all.

One extremist far-right website reported that the disruption to the event was “likely” to be an example of “Swedish traditions being suppressed in order not to offend migrants who don't hold Christian beliefs”, without providing any evidence for this claim.

The column was written under the name 'Emma R' and published on the alt-right website Voice of Europe, before spreading to other far-right sites including the Geller Report and on the alt-right Peter Sweden Twitter account.

It cited SVT Nyheter Örebro, which published a short article last week about the decision not to broadcast the concert. The article stated that it was unclear whether the event itself would still take place, contrary to Voice of Europe's article which stated the concert had already been “cancelled”.

“TV4 is not broadcasting O Helga Natt this year,” executive producer Karin Dofs confirmed to The Local in a written comment. “Because it isn't certain that the concert will be staged, we cannot plan for a TV broadcast either.”

“It is sad that we're losing such a great and long-standing Christmas tradition, but we hope to be able to show O Helga Natt next year again,” Dofs added.

“We deal with untrue news being spread by answering questions we get with transparency. The reason why we decided not to broadcast the event is that there are uncertainties about whether the event will actually take place. These uncertainties have nothing to do with the untruths that have appeared in various forums,” she said, when asked how TV4 reacted to the false reports.

READ ALSO: How a minor traffic incident was reported as 'horror' by international media

As for the uncertainty over whether the concert will take place, there are a few contributing factors, none of them apparently relating to religion. Firstly, it's important to note that the concert has not been cancelled by “Sweden”, as stated on the far-right sites, but rather removed from the programming schedule of one TV channel, TV4. 

In September, Örebrokompaniet – the marketing company for Örebro municipality – announced that it was withdrawing its offer to be a partner of the event and its support of 900,000 kronor. The reason given was that the company organizing the event, Ambitiös, had failed to put forward a detailed budget or event plan.

“We are not able to wait any longer for information because we need to move on in our planning before Christmas. We are commissioned by the municipality of Örebro to conduct a larger event for Örebro residents over Christmas and so we need to have enough time to find ways to use these resources in another way. Therefore, we are now withdrawing the offer,” Christer Wilén, CEO of Örebrokompaniet, said in a statement in late September, adding that it was up to Ambitiös, the event's organizers, to let residents know if the event would go ahead. The Local has contacted Wilén for comment.

Ambitiös took over organization of O Helga Natt after the company previously responsible went bankrupt in 2016, and was acquired by Ambitiös. Davor Dundic, CEO and owner of the latter company, said the strong brand and popularity of O Helga Natt was one of the main reasons for the acquisition, and Dundic was earlier this year nominated for an award as 'Örebro resident of the year' for his role in rescuing the free concert.

When The Local contacted Ambitiös, we were told no one in the office was available to speak about O Helga Natt and to send an email, which at the time of publication had not received a response. The website for the concert has not been updated since February 2018, and still lists the details for the 2017 event, while several long-term past collaborators, including a producer and director, told SVT that they have also been unable to find up-to-date information on the event's status.

Last year's concert

In its headline, Voice of Europe wrote: “Sweden cancels traditional Christmas concert and increases promotions for Islamic events”, implying that funds and time slots set aside for traditional Christmas festivities were being diverted to Islamic cultural events. In fact, Örebrokompaniet has said it still plans to spend the money it had allocated to O Helga Natt on another large-scale Christmas event for the community.

The Netherlands-based website describes itself as a “conservative news network” but most articles have a strong anti-migrant and anti-Islam bias. 

The article about O Helga Natt concluded with a statement calling on readers to “start speaking up and to stop accepting the destruction of our culture, counties (sic) and continent NOW”, in a thinly veiled attempt to appeal to far-right, anti-immigration or anti-Muslim sympathizers.

Journalism professor Christian Christensen highlighted the impact of presenting biased takes on news in order to appeal to certain groups in a tweet:

It's not the first time that Sweden's local Christmas festivities have been falsely reported abroad.

In 2016, extremist fake news rights reported that the Scandinavian country had issued a ban on Christmas lights for religious reasons and particularly to avoid offending Muslims. The reports came as a surprise to anyone who was actually in Christmas for the festive season, where cities and towns were covered, as usual, in sparkly lights and other festive decorations.

As with the O Helga Natt reports, that story started with a grain of truth. Transport administration Trafikverket had announced that councils wishing to hang lights on state-owned lampposts had to apply for permission, both for legal and health safety reasons. 

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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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