Swedish word of the day: julvärd

Here's the next word in The Local's Christmas-themed word of the day series, running from December 1st to Christmas Eve.

the word julvärd on a black background by a Swedish flag
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Today’s word of the day is julvärd, an important word to know if you’ll be watching TV in Sweden on Christmas Eve this year.

Julvärd is made up of the words jul (Christmas) and värd (host). A julvärd refers to the person presenting the Christmas Day programming each year in Sweden. SVT’s julvärd changes each year, and julvärd announcements are major news, with the year’s choice regularly making headlines when it is revealed at the end of October live on SVT.

This year’s julvärd is Tareq Taylor, a chef, restaurant owner and TV presenter based in Malmö.

He is known in Sweden for TV programmes such as Trädgårdstider (a gardening and cooking programme roughly translated as “Garden times”) and Tareq Taylors matresa (“Tareq Taylor’s food journey”: a food and travel programme where he travels to the Middle East and his father’s childhood home of Jerusalem alongside his father and brother to explore the local food culture).

Outside of Sweden, Taylor is known for the English-language TV series Tareq Taylor’s Nordic Cookery, where he travels around the Nordic countries introducing viewers to Nordic cuisine.

The story of the julvärd dates back to early TV and radio history, where programmes were introduced by a hallåa – a word which translates as a “hello-er”, coming from the period in radio history where national programmes connected to local programmes with the greeting “hallå hallå” or “hello hello”.

Early television was not without issues – there could be technical problems with TV broadcasts, and longer films or television programmes often required multiple rolls of film, meaning that programmes often had at least one break during broadcast to change to the next roll. It could also take up to five minutes to switch between TV stations in different parts of the country.

This all meant that there were frequent breaks in television broadcasts which needed to be filled, which is why hallåor were so important. They provided entertainment and presented the upcoming programme in a time where TV trailers didn’t exist, ensuring that viewers didn’t get bored and turn off their televisions.

Although hallåor are unusual on Swedish television nowadays, the yearly julvärd is one example of continuing the tradition. The most famous julvärd through the years is Arne Weise, the late Swedish television personality who fronted the show for three decades.

You can watch this year’s julvärd on SVT 1 (in Swedish), starting at 3pm on Christmas Eve with the yearly showing of Donald Duck.

Example sentences:

SVT har precis avslöjat vem som kommer vara julvärd i år.

SVT has just revealed who will be Christmas host this year.

Julvärden firar jul tillsammans med hela svenska folket på julafton.

The Christmas host celebrates Christmas with everyone in Sweden on Christmas Eve.

Need a good Christmas gift idea?

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it – or join The Local as a member and get your copy for free.

It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.

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Swedish word of the day: liga

You may have this word in your native language or recognise it from football leagues such as the German Bundesliga or Spain's La Liga. Liga has a similar meaning in Swedish, too, with one crucial difference.

Swedish word of the day: liga

Liga originally comes from Latin ligāre (“to bind”). In most languages, liga means “league”, a group of individuals, organisations or nations who are united in some way.

Similar words exist in many European languages, such as Dutch, Spanish, Czech and Polish liga, Italian lega, French ligue and Romanian ligă.

A league is almost always something positive or neutral in other languages, but in Swedish a liga is something negative – a criminal gang, with the word ligist referring to a (usually young, male) gang member, thug or hooligan.

Political or diplomatic leagues are usually translated into Swedish as förbund (“union” or “association”) rather than liga: one example is the Swedish term for the League of Nations, Nationernas förbund.

The only exception to this rule is sport, where the popularity of international football leagues such as the Bundesliga and the Premier League has lessened the negative meaning somewhat in this context. Fans of hockey will be familiar with SHL, Svenska hockeyligan, and Sweden’s handball league is referred to as handbollsligan.

The history behind liga’negative meaning in Swedish can be traced back to the Thirty Years’ War, which took place largely within the Holy Roman Empire between 1618 and 1648.

Essentially, the Thirty Years’ War began as a fight between Protestant and Catholic states of the Holy Roman Empire, with Catholic states forming the Catholic League and Protestant states forming the Protestant Union.

Sweden was – and still is – Lutheran, meaning that, when they got involved in the war in 1630, their enemies were the Catholic League – or the katolska ligan in Swedish, with its members being referred to as ligister or “league-ists”.

King Gustav II Adolf eventually beat the Catholic League in 1631 at the Battle of Breitenfeld, ultimately leading to the formal dissolution of the league in 1635 in the Peace of Prague, which forbade alliances from forming within the Holy Roman Empire.

Although this may seem like ancient history, Swedes still don’t trust a liga – the word’s negative connotations have survived for almost 400 years.

Swedish vocabulary:

Jag är lite orolig för honom, han har börjat hänga med ett gäng ligister.

I’m a bit worried about him, he’s started hanging out with a group of thugs.

Manchester United har vunnit den engelska ligan flest gånger, men City är mästare just nu.

Manchester United have won the Premier League the most times, but City are the current champions.

De säger att det står en liga bakom det senaste inbrottsvågen.

They’re saying there’s a gang behind the recent spate of break-ins.

Villa, Volvo, Vovve: The Local’s Word Guide to Swedish Life, written by The Local’s journalists, is now available to order. Head to to read more about it. It is also possible to buy your copy from Amazon USAmazon UKBokus or Adlibris.