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#AdventCalendar: The strange things that happen in Sweden at 3pm on Christmas Eve

Catherine Edwards
Catherine Edwards - [email protected]
#AdventCalendar: The strange things that happen in Sweden at 3pm on Christmas Eve

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.


Many countries have a Christmas television traditions, usually revolving around light-hearted entertainment or comedy that the whole family can enjoy, or something relating to the year in review.

In Japan, people watch the singing contest Kohaku Uta Gassen (The Red and White Song Contest) while Russians watch a musical and variety show, Goluboy ogonyok, or Little Blue Light.

Both Denmark and Sweden's public broadcasters have a daily 'Advent Calendar' TV programme with a short daily episode each day of December.

But Sweden might just be one of the countries that takes its festive TV most seriously.

At 3pm on Christmas Eve, Swedes settle down around the TV to watch an hour (65 minutes, to be precise) of Disney cartoons. 

Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul (literally Donald Duck and His Friends Wish You a Merry Christmas, or From All of Us to All of You in English-speaking countries) has been broadcast on Christmas Eve since 1960. Despite the title, the programme is a wide mix of classic Disney cartoons, plus two new segments added each year. It's become cemented in Swedish Christmas tradition, probably because for ten years after it began, Sweden had only one TV channel, and only had two until 1987.  

There have been changes over the years. Only four scenes have been shown every single year, which are the opening of the programme. And many scenes have had small moments cut out, some for timing reasons and others because they are no longer considered appropriate (including one offensive scene featuring a black doll in the Santa’s Workshop scene).

Photo: Pontus Lundahl / TT
The timing was set at 3pm back in 1976 after undergoing several changes, and even the slightest tweak to the traditional TV show usually prompts angry comments and even (mostly empty) threats of a boycott.

Perhaps it's no surprise that the American programme is so dear to Swedes. During those 65 minutes, Sweden becomes a momentarily quieter, more peaceful and possibly even safer place. 

Mobile phone operators report a dip in usage during the sacred hour. And there’s a spike in electricity usage at 3pm, as people prepare their coffee or tea and switch on the TV, which falls again at 4pm when the show is over.

Calls to the emergency number 112 have in the past dropped by anything up to around a quarter, a phenomenon known as Kalle Anka-effekten (the Donald Duck effect), with emergency services reporting that some people even state they waited until after the programme to report their crisis.
But over the past two years, the trend has diminished, with a drop of only nine percent in 2017 and just two percent last year.
Still, don't take that to mean that the tradition of Disney is losing its grip on Sweden. For the past three Christmases, it's been the most-watched TV event of the year, and for many more years it has traditionally been one of the top three (often alongside Melodifestivalen, the bizarrely popular Eurovision Song Contest entry show).

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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