Christmas For Members

Why do Swedes play bingo the day before Christmas Eve?

Becky Waterton
Becky Waterton - [email protected]
Why do Swedes play bingo the day before Christmas Eve?
The Local's Becky Waterton will be playing bingo on the 23rd with her family this year. Photo: Becky Waterton

Throughout history, Swedes have stayed up late the day before Christmas Eve to get everything ready for the big day of celebrations. Since 1995, this has also included playing bingo until midnight – but why?


Uppesittarkväll, literally "sitting-up evening", was traditionally the name used to refer to any day where family members stayed up late to do household chores or prepare for the next day.

In farming communities before the advent of electric lighting, there could be many uppesittarkvällar a year, spent sewing and fixing tools and clothing for the foreseeable future by firelight.

Over time, these uppesittarkvällar became less necessary, with the term now referring only to the day before Christmas Eve. This is because Swedes have their main Christmas celebration on December 24th, Christmas Eve in English or julafton. So the day before, the 23rd, youngsters might be unable to sleep, while adults are usually busy with the preparations of food and decorations. 

At the same time, the tasks carried out during uppesittarkväll became more cooking-related, tasks traditionally carried out by women. This was reflected in the name of popular radio programme Endast mamma är vaken or "Only mother is awake", broadcast for women preparing for Christmas Eve on December 23rd every year for 25 years, starting in 1947.


Although Endast mamma är vaken ended in the 1970s, uppesittarkväll TV and radio programmes are still broadcast on the 23rd, with BingoLottos Uppesittarkväll on TV4 being one of the most well known.

In general, an Uppesittarkväll programme is a good initiation to Swedish Christmas traditions: guests discuss tips for a perfect celebration and often write rhyming verses for gift tags (an old Swedish custom – the rhyme should give a clue as to the present inside) alongside musical performances from famous Swedes and competitions.

BingoLottos Uppesittarkväll, launched in 1995, combines the Uppesittarkväll entertainment programme tradition with a game of bingo where guests play along at home. Winners can take home cash prizes but also high-ticket items like a new car (although most Swedes just join in for the fun of it).

Playing bingo the day before Christmas Eve may sound like an outdated concept, but TV4's Uppesittarkväll is one of the most popular programmes in Swedish TV history and even features in Nordiska Museet museum.

For those of you interested in watching BingoLottos Uppesittarkväll this year, you can tune in to TV4 at 7.30pm on December 23rd.

If you want to play along with the bingo, you can buy physical bingo cards at most newsagents and supermarkets, (they are also sometimes sold by local sports clubs and similar groups to raise money), or you can buy them digitally from the BingoLotto website. All profits go to sports clubs and associations connected to Svenskt föreningsliv. Note that you have to be over 18 to play!

Will you be playing along this year? Let us know!


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also