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Get to know Swedish Julkalender Posted by on Nov 26, 2019 in Culture, Current Events, Film, Holidays, Multimedia, Swedish Language, The Swedish blog team, Uncategorized, Video, Vocabulary

Julkalender is an annual television event of epic proportions. Swedish Television, SVT, goes all-out to produce an original Christmas-themed series that Swedes both young and old look forward to. The show premiers on December 1st and concludes on Christmas Eve. Keeping up with julkalender is like having one of those advent calendars where you open a little paper flap each day, but instead of eating a piece of so-so chocolate, you get to watch the next episode in the julkalender series. Also, this is an incredible opportunity to work on Swedish: it’s fun, it’s playful, and BONUS, the episodes are only fifteen minutes long!

Photo: SVT – Panik i tomteverkstan


First, because this show is about Santa, how do we say “Santa” in Swedish? A tomte can be a little elf, or gnome. However, if we put this word in the definite form, with a capital “T”, Tomten, we now mean THE TOMTE, aka, Santa. You can also use Jultomten, literally the Christmas elf, if you’d like to emphasis that you mean the “Christmassy” elf, and not other elves who play tricks on you around the house and steal your socks from the laundry. 


Vem ska vara Tomte i år?      Who is going to be Santa this year?


This year’s program is titled “Panik i tomteverkstan” or “Panic in Santa’s Workshop.” So what’s the panic all about? Apparently, kids have stopped believing in Santa and this news is seriously bumming Tomten out. His wife, kids, and helpers, try their best to pull it all together as the holiday approaches. Per Andersson plays Tomten and Pernilla Wahlgren plays Tomtemor. Despite the show being filmed in March of this year, actors said that the julstämning, or Christmas spirit, on set was high due to the use of fake snow and hundreds of Christmas trees.  

att tro                        to believe in

      – > tror -> trodde -> har trott 

Barnen slutar tro på Tomten. 
The children stop believing in Santa.

Tomtemor                  Mother Christmas or Mrs. Claus

Pernilla Wahlgren spelar Tomtemor i år. 
Pernilla Wahlgren plays Mrs. Claus this year.

en skådespelare    an actor

Markoolio är en av skådespelarna i årets program. 
Markoolio is one of the actors in this year’s show.

att spela in             to film / shoot

-> spelar -> spelade -> har spelat 

Programmet spelades in i mars.   The show was shot in March. 

julstämning          Christmas feeling
Hur fick ni julstämningen i mars?
How did you get that Christmas feeling in March?

fejksnö                    fake snow

en julgran              a Christmas tree

Vi använde en massa fejksnö och många julgranar.
We used a lot of fake snow and many Christmas trees.

Julkalender is 24 episodes in total. Each episode airs twice daily on SVT, once in the morning, and once in the evening. It’s also available to stream outside of those times on SVTplay. Some Swedes aren’t really into julkalender, but when the theme is good, the buzz builds and folks tune in. Last year’s show, “Storm på Lugna gatan,” a play on words about the Storm family, “The Storm on Quiet Street” had nearly 775,000 streams online for each episode, which was up about 80% from the previous year.  


Storm på lugna gatan. Photo: Johan Paulin, SVT

When I was living in Sweden, the main character of “Tjuvarnas jul/ The Thieve’s Christmas” was a spunky little girl named Charlie. Her name was pronounced with a “sh”-sound instead of the English “ch,” becoming “Shar-lee.” This is really similar to the way Swedes end up pronouncing my name, “Shelsea.” In fact, while meeting people during this run of 
julkalender, I would tell them my name is Chelsea, and next time we’d see each other, they would call me Charlie. I would kindly remind them that I wasn’t the girl from julkalender, which left them feeling a lot more awkward than I did. 

Pretty bummed that you’ve been missing out on all the fun of julkalender each year, right? Ingen panik /don’t panic! Here is the list of all 60 programs since the tradition started in 1960. Some programs are archived and available to watch in SVT’s archive here. A few years ago, SVT polled viewers for their favorite julkalender theme. 1991’s program, “Sunes jul,” based on the popular books by Anders Jacobsson och Sören Olsson, came in first by a landslide.  Second was 1996’s ”Mysteriet på Greveholm” and third was ”Trolltider”, which aired in 1979.

Öppet arkiv            Open Archive on SVT

Det går att titta på både  ”Mysteriet på Greveholm” och ”Trolltider” i SVTplays Öppet arkiv.
You can watch both ”Mysteriet på Greveholm” and ”Trolltider” in SVTplay’s Open Archives online.

So will this year’s theme be a hit or a flop? I don’t know! I haven’t seen it yet! But check out a sneak-peak, en smygtitt here!

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About the Author: Chelsea B

Chelsea is a Swedish language instructor and translator living in Minnesota, U.S. She has a degree in Scandinavian Studies from Gustavus Adolphus College and has experience living and working in Sweden from north to south! In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, listening to music, and practicing slöjd, the Swedish word for handcraft.


  1. Yana:

    Thanks a lot for the interesting post. I’d also recommend “Selmas Saga”. It is a wonderful fairytale, brings a lot of “Christmas mood” 🙂 I think it was shot 3 years ago.

    • Chelsea B:

      @Yana Tack for the recommendation, Yana!

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