Kalle Ankas julafton – a unique Swedish Christmas tradition

I have tried to explain the mysterious Swedish Christmas tradition of sitting down at 3pm on Christmas Eve to watch Kalle Ankas julafton (together with almost everyone else in Sweden) to many people over the years, but have consistently been met with blank, confused faces.

This article in Slate finally describes it in terms outsiders may be able to understand. I am completely aware of how weird it must sound, but to me (who grew up with it), it is as big a part of Swedish Christmas as it is to the people the article talks about. It is just something you do.

These old Walt Disney shorts are a part of every Swedish person’s imagination, much as it must seem both random and anachronistic to anyone else. They are modern fairy tales, just as the article suggests.

I guess it can be filed under “weirdly, uniquely Swedish”, together with the elaborate celebrations of a Sicilian saint, Lucia, on 13 December. Nowhere else do you dress all the young people in long white nightgowns and stick candles in their hair (or tinsel/tall white wizard’s hats in cardboard, if you are chosen to be a “tärna” eller “stjärngosse”), and make them sing a specific repertoire of songs in procession (often while serving coffee and ginger snaps) in the early morning. They definitely don’t do it in Sicily.

It all seems closet pagan to me, even if has long been embraced by the church. There is no doubt in my mind that we are, essentially, worshippers of sun and light.

This short, Ferdinand the Bull, is mentioned in the Slate article – and happens to be one of my favourites (probably for reasons similar to those mentioned in the article). Från oss alla, till er alla, en riktigt God Jul.


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