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#AdventCalendar: The dinner that proves Sweden is anything but lagom

#AdventCalendar: The dinner that proves Sweden is anything but lagom
Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria at the Nobel Prize Banquet. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT
Each day of December up until Christmas Eve, The Local is sharing the story behind a surprising Swedish fact as part of our own Advent calendar.

Come December, most of the world has already forgotten about the Nobel Prize laureates, whose names were announced in October. But in Sweden's it's only just getting started.

Always held on December 10th, the date on which inventor Alfred Nobel died in 1896, the Nobel Banquet is the event that proves that everything you knew about lagom – that hyped-up Swedish word that means 'in moderation' and is a buzzword everywhere but in Sweden – is false.

Because at the Nobel feast, nothing comes in moderation. The dinner, held after the laureates accept their prizes in Stockholm, features a 1,300-strong guest list of royalty, top politicians and academics plus international guests. Its the poshest affair in Sweden, and even comes with its own cutlery, in 24,390 parts.

It's a cause of excitement and conversation among the general population too, with around one million Swedes (that's a tenth of the country's entire population) expected to follow along from home by tuning in to the live broadcast on SVT.

Ask your Swedish friends, and at least one of them will – despite claiming not to watch or even care about the event – be able to tell you at least one Nobel anecdote. Like the time former prime minister Göran Persson answered his phone during dinner, or the time Princess Madeleine sparked a stir with a low-cut dress.

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Then-Prime Minister Göran Persson next to Crown Princess Victoria in 2003. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer/TT

It is all organized by the Nobel Foundation, and anyone who is anyone is there – including all party leaders apart from the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats, who are never invited. “The party's background in right-wing extremism and the actions of their representatives in the present day show a lack of respect for the basic principle that all people have equal value and rights – regardless of skin colour, origin or religion,” states the Nobel Foundation, a privately-owned organization despite the official nature of the event.

That decision is not entirely uncontroversial, and the Nobel Foundation has been criticized for meanwhile inviting all international ambassadors in Sweden, including envoys representing dictatorships.

But let's be honest, most of the gossip tends to be preoccupied with the food and the dresses, not politics.

Swedish tabloids dedicate several column inches to which dress the Queen wore, was it better than the one she wore in 1998, let's list the best dresses the Queen has ever worn, why does media coverage of female politicians always focus on their clothes and by the way which female politician wore the prettiest dress?

So tonight, why not immerse yourself fully into the Swedish experience and watch 1,300 people eat, live on camera – think of it as mukbang the way the Swedes did it before it got popular on YouTube.

The broadcast, including award ceremony and dinner, starts at 4.25pm on SVT Play.

Each day until Christmas Eve, The Local is looking at the story behind one surprising fact about Sweden, as agreed by our readers. Find the rest of our Advent Calendar HERE and sign up below to get an email notification when there's a new article.


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