#SwedishChristmas: The beloved TV series that changes every year

#SwedishChristmas: The beloved TV series that changes every year
For nearly as long as there's been television in Sweden, there's been the SVT julkalendern. Pictured is the one from 1979. Photo: Jan Collsiöö/TT
Every day from now until Christmas Eve, The Local explains the unique history behind Swedish Christmas traditions in our own Advent calendar.

Yesterday, children around the world began opening the doors and windows of their Advent calendars, uncovering everything from pictures and jokes to candies and small toys.

Here in Sweden, every television transforms into an Advent calendar between the first and 24th of December, with each day offering children a new episode of a special Christmas programme broadcast by Swedish national broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT).

The 1967 Julkalendern was about Mrs Pepperpot, a woman who shrinks to the size of a pepperpot. Photo: TT

Since it premiered in 1960, the SVT Christmas Calendar (Julkalendern) has become a beloved tradition and integral part of celebrating Christmas in Sweden. The programme, which changes nearly every year, was originally produced for television and radio, airing on both SVT and Sveriges Radio. Although this changed in the 1970s, when distinct programmes were created for each medium, the companion printed Advent Calendar features both the television and radio series.  

Over the years, SVT has based some of the programmes on popular Swedish books and television series, while the programmes themselves have sometimes been spun off into feature films. Occasionally, the network has experimented with various formats and themes, including broadcasting live, producing a sequel of a program that aired 16 years earlier, and airing reruns of programs from years earlier. And while many of the programs have revolved around familiar themes such as family, tomte, trolls, and puppets, there have also been some unexpected topics, such as World War I, Greek mythology and hitchhikers’ stories.

This year's Julkalendern is about a Christmas battle between neighbours. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Of course, much has changed since SVT launched the show nearly 60 years ago, when broadcast television was still in its infancy in Sweden. Back in 1960, SVT was the one and only television station in Sweden, and had been broadcasting for a mere four years. Undoubtedly, far more people tuned into the radio production of the first programme than the televised version. Over the years, however, the SVT Christmas Calendar has transformed from a fairly basic black and white production with a limited audience to a tradition woven into the fabric of Swedish Christmas that is now broadcast in high definition, as well as online and via an app.

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