Christmas calendars for Swedish radio and tv 1958–2021

19 November–29 January 2023
Free admission

The Christmas calendar is a popular annual feature on Sweden’s public service radio and television. The broadcasted Christmas calendar shows – along with the appurtenant illustrated paper calendar – are a Nordic phenomenon that contribute to Christmas spirit for the whole family, but can also arouse discussion and sometimes upset feelings. Over the years, the paper calendars have been created by many different Swedish illustrators, some of whom have been awarded the assignment more than once.

In this exhibition we see most of Sweden’s Television (SVT) and Sweden’s Radio (SR) Christmas calendars from the years 1958–2021. We can see how themes, aesthetics and technical execution have changed over time. However, much is still the same. The paper calendars essentially have the same format and mostly 24 flaps/doors. The execution is characterized by pencils and watercolors and in recent years by digital drawing. The exhibition presents a Swedish cultural heritage.

The first printed Christmas calendar was made in Germany around 1920, and the first Swedish “Advent calendar” was created in 1934 and sold by Sweden’s Girl Scout Association. It was drawn by the artist and illustrator Aina Stenberg-MasOlle. In 1957 SR made its first Advent calendar show, “The Children’s Advent Calendar”. The paper calendar was drawn by the illustrator Einar Lagerwall, and printed on a spread in the weekly magazine Röster i radio-TV (Voices in radio-TV). The radio’s Advent calendar became unexpectedly popular, and for the 1958 edition “Julbestyr på en bondgård” (“Christmas work on a farm”) a separate paper calendar with flaps/doors, drawn by the illustrator Sören Linde, was also sold. In 1960, the first televised Christmas calendar show premiered, “Titteliture”. The paper calendar was drawn by the illustrator Thor Lindmark.

At first the calendars, which were directed at children, did not receive much attention, but with the 1967 TV classic “Mrs. Pepperpot”, a couple of million adults also started watching the programs. That year, the paper calendar was drawn by the illustrator Björn Berg. The first Christmas calendar broadcast in color was Tage Danielsson’s “The Labours of Hercules Jonsson” from 1969, with a paper calendar drawn by the illustrator and animator Per Åhlin.

Until 1972, the paper calendar was the same for both radio and television, but after that they became two separate products each year, with two completely different stories. In 1971, the name was changed from “Advent calendar” to “Christmas calendar”. The format has, with some exceptions, remained the same ever since. “The Mystery at Greveholm” from 1996, with a paper calendar by the illustrator Peter Nyrell, was the first calendar show with an accompanying computer game on CD. It was a great success.

The Christmas calendars are on loan from a private collection.