The show consists of old cartoons from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, featuring Walt Disney’s duck, whom the Swedes call Kalle Anka.
After the jump, an excerpt and link to an account of the role Kalle Anka plays in the Swedish Christmas.
Three years ago, I went to Sweden with my then-girlfriend (now-wife), to meet her family and celebrate my first Christmas. As an only partially lapsed Jew, I was not well-versed in Christmas traditions, and I was completely ignorant of Swedish customs and culture. So I was prepared for surprises. I was not prepared for this: Every year on Dec. 24 at 3 p.m., half of Sweden sits down in front of the television for a family viewing of the 1958 Walt Disney Presents Christmas special, “From All of Us to All of You.” Or as it is known in Sverige, Kalle Anka och hans vänner önskar God Jul: “Donald Duck and his friends wish you a Merry Christmas.”
Kalle Anka, for short, has been airing without commercial interruption at the same time on Sweden’s main public-television channel, TV1, on Christmas Eve (when Swedes traditionally celebrate the holiday) since 1959. The show consists of Jiminy Cricket presenting about a dozen Disney cartoons from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, only a couple of which have anything to do with Christmas. There are “Silly Symphonies” shorts and clips from films like Cinderella,Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and The Jungle Book. The special is pretty much the same every year, except for the live introduction by a host (who plays the role of Walt Disney from the original Walt Disney Presents series) and the annual addition of one new snippet from the latest Disney-produced movie, which TV1’s parent network, SVT, is contractually obligated by Disney to air.
Now just because Swedes like to watch a particular Christmas special every year does not mean that Donald Duck has replaced Christ. Despite what we hear about the secularization of Scandinavia, there are still lots of Christians in Sweden.
A large percentage of Americans watch “A Christmas Story” every year and can recite the lines as the Swedes can for Kalle Anka, but that doesn’t mean that they consider the meaning of Christmas to be Daisy Red Rider BB guns.
Photo, “The Spirit of 43 Donald Duck” by Walt Disney Pictures for the US government. – Youtube video, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21649215