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Donald Duck and Christmas in Sweden

by Brad A. Greenberg

December 25, 2011 | 3:53 pm

Speaking of bizarre Christmas traditions, in Sweden it’s customary to spend Christmas Eve watching Donald Duck cartoons. No, I didn’t understand the association either.

Jeremy Stahl explains Kalle Anka, which he discovered on a trip to Sweden, for Slate:

The show’s cultural significance cannot be understated. You do not tape or DVR Kalle Anka for later viewing. You do not eat or prepare dinner while watching Kalle Anka. Age does not matter—every member of the family is expected to sit quietly together and watch a program that generations of Swedes have been watching for 50 years. Most families plan their entire Christmas around Kalle Anka, from the Smörgåsbord at lunch to the post-Kalle visit from Jultomten. “At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, you can’t to do anything else, because Sweden is closed,” Lena Kättström Höök, a curator at the Nordic Museum who manages the “Traditions” exhibit, told me. “So even if you don’t want to watch it yourself, you can’t call anyone else or do anything else, because no one will do it with you.”

(skip)

Over the last half-century, the characters and sketches have become as much a part of the holiday as the Christmas tree, so much so that each time TV1 has suggested modifying the schedule, public outcry has forced the network to back down. In the 1970s, Helena Sandblad, then head of children’s programming, attempted to pull the show off of the air because broadcasting a Disney program didn’t jibe with the prevailing political ethos. “Everything was pretty serious in the ‘70s and anything that was commercial, or considered commercial, was not good, was considered an ugly word,” said SVT publicity officer Ursula Haegerström. After newspapers got wind of the plans to cancel the show, the station was bombarded with letters, phone calls, and negative press. Sandblad received personal threats. “That was one of the worst audience storms in our history,” Haegerström told me.

Me? My Christmas television traditions center more around watching the NFL and the NBA. (Go Clippers.)

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Since launching the blog in 2007, I’ve referred to myself as “a God-fearing Christian with devilishly good Jewish looks.” The description, I’d say, is an accurate one,...

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