In his address to TV4 viewers on Christmas Eve, this year’s julvärd, Bengt Magnusson, commented that the Swedish Christmas has become an amalgam of traditions imported from other cultures that have been spread through social media.
“A Merry Christmas and a warm welcome into the warmth,” said Magnusson. “An evening when we celebrate a traditional Swedish Christmas with Advent imported from Germany, saffron bread from Holland and English traditions, mistletoe, and Christmas cards.”
He continues late: “(Saint) Lucia from Sicily and the three wise men from the Middle East … Not to mention the Santa Claus himself. A man who travelled a long and winding road from the roots of Saint Nicholas who was born in what is now Turkey.”
Magnusson concluded with a shot towards SVT’s julvärd, the Muslim broadcaster Gina Dirawi: “Cheers Gina, you have of course an obvious place in the Swedish Christmas celebrations.”
The julvärd, or Christmas host, has provided in vision continuity on Swedish television on Christmas Eve since 1959. The SVT presentation runs for seven hours and always begins at 2:55pm with the 1958 Walt Disney Christmas special “Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul” (“Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas”).
For 30 years the show on SVT was hosted by Arne Weise, a white male TV broadcaster who became synonymous with Christmas, but since his retirement in 2002, the host has changed each year. So, when Gina Dirawi, a young Muslim broadcaster of Palestinian descent, was selected as this year’s julvärd it proved an unpopular decision for some.