Behind Door #1: Elves in the Loft

1 December 2006 at 10:59 2 comments

Well, I missed the whole November is National Blog Posting Month thing, but I found something better: a blogged Advent calendar.

I know, I know, as an atheist wannabe, I probably shouldn’t have any truck with anything quite so Christmas-y, but I saw that one of my favorite Swedish bloggers, Heliotropen, is posting an anecdote a day for the month of December, and I thought “Well, why not?”

(Actually, I thought, an anecdote a day seems like a lot of pressure. I mean, what if nothing amusing happens to me that day? So I think I’ll just post something. If nothing else, it’ll help get this blog up and running.)

So without further ado, I’ll start by explaining why this wannabe athiest would be intrigued by the idea of an online Advent calendar…

Every year in Sweden, one of the national TV channels airs a short episode of a video advent calendar (Julkalendar) every day from December 1 through 24. The episodes are about twenty minutes long, and the content is usually kid-friendly. My friend Marilyn showed me an episode of last year’s version which featured lots of adorable muppet-like animals preparing for Christmas.

When I lived in Sweden, I ignored the Swedish version, which seemed too cutesy-pie, but one of the cable channels was showing the Norwegian Julkalendar from a year or two earlier, a show called Nissene på låven. (Norwegian readers should please excuse any spelling errors.) Translated into Swedish this was Tomtarna på löftet Elves in the Loft — a Swedish idiom that’s roughly the same as bats in the belfry.

Swedish Christmas presents are delivered to good little boys and girls by the Tomte — a sort of cross between Santa and an elf — and the premise of the show was that a bunch of misguided losers were contestants in a reality TV show where they dressed in Tomte costumes and lived in the loft of a barn for the month of December. The contestants formed two teams, the Grey-Beards and the White-Beards, who competed in goofy Christmas related contests like guessing the contents of wrapped Christmas presents from their shape. During their time in the loft, they could only eat Scandinavian Christmas foods like warm rice pudding and mulled wine, and each night they’d vote for the contestant they wanted to eliminate by writing his or her name on a gingerbread cookie with icing and depositing it in a cookie tin.

It cracked me up when the solemn host in Norwegian folk costume said “nu går vi till kakeboksen” — now, let’s go to the cookie tin — at the end of every episode, just before he revealed that night’s loser. If fact, just typing the word kakeboksen still makes me smile.

The best part of the show, though, was that the Christmas elf contestants behaved just like reality show contestants everywhere. They plotted and backstabbed and had sordid trysts with each other.

Unusually, that December we had hardly any snow in the part of Sweden where I was living and studying, so it was pitch black by about three in the afternoons. (When there’s snow out the ground, it never feels completely dark.) After dinner, I’d bundle up and tromp across the highway to Gun-Britt’s dorm to watch the daily installment with a group of other Tomte fans. We’d all plop down on the big blue velour sectional sofa and laugh and laugh before we headed back into the cold Swedish night.


Entry filed under: Julkalendar, Sweden.

Serendipity Soup Behind Door #2: I Want the Pig

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