On Christmas Eve in Stockholm you might wonder why the city suddenly goes goes silent at exactly 3 pm and everyone is glued to the television. Wonder no more – it’s Kalle Anka time and it’s a beloved Swedish tradition.
If you’re new to Stockholm you might be surprised to discover that Donald Duck (known as Kalle Anka in Sweden) plays an integral part in Swedish Christmas celebrations. Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas (Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul) first hit the Swedish airways back in 1959, when Sweden had just one television channel and the majority of Swedes didn’t even own a TV.
How this innocent airing of a collection of Disney cartoons became an annual tradition is up for debate.The closest thing to an official story is that because Sweden used to have just one TV channel airing cartoons wasn’t a priority when it came to what was shown on television. As a result, Disney cartoons were SVT’s (Sweden’s national television broadcaster) gift to the nation’s children at Christmastime.
A slightly less heartwarming story is that back in the day capitalist Walt Disney was persona non grata in Sweden and as a result SVT limited the airing of Disney cartoons to just one hour each year, at 3pm on Christmas Eve. Because this was so unusual people gathered in front of their screens to enjoy the rare treat and before you know it this somehow became a national tradition.
Of course, the story goes deeper: Disney used this opportunity to show promo clips between cartoons, a sneaky way to get around SVT’s non-commercial status – something that continues to this day: SVT continues to be contractually obliged to show promo clips from Disney offerings during Kalle Anka. In fact, one became so popular over the years (Robin Hood) that it has been absorbed into the annual mix.
So if you’re in Stockholm on Christmas Eve here are some rules and trivia about this unique tradition:
- All holiday preparations must be set aside during the viewing of Kalle Anka. No cooking, no present wrapping, nothing
- You are not allowed to speak unless it is to recite favorite lines (but don’t get them wrong!)
- Viewing numbers have fallen in recent years but it’s all relative: at least half the country still watches
- Recording Kalle Anka to watch later is a big no-no. You do it at 3pm or you don’t do it at all
- While foreign children programs are normally dubbed Kalle Anka has a narrator who describes what is happening on your television screen and you can still hear the American voices in the background
- TV personality Arne Weise was the host from 1972; when he announced he was retiring from the position in 2002 in order to spend Christmas with his family there were great fears that this was the end of an era but happily this didn’t come true
- Bengt Feldreich sings When You Wish Upon a Star
- It’s so ingrained in the culture here that Swedish trio Just D named-checked Kalle Anka in their perennially popular Christmas song Jul Igen
View Stockholm wishes you a wonderful Christmas – and we hope you enjoy Kalle Anka. God Jul!