Jultomten, also known simply as ”Tomten”, is Sweden’s Father Christmas, visiting houses in the afternoon on Christmas Eve (when Christmas in Sweden is celebrated) to distribute presents to children.
Jultomten is often depicted as a corpulent figure with red clothes and a long white beard, similar to, but not the same as, the US image of Santa Claus popularised by the Coca Cola commercials of the 1930s. The Swedish image of Jultomten, a hybrid of St. Nicholas, ”Julbocken” (the Swedish Christmas goat) and a garden gnome, is said to have been created by Swedish artist and illustrator Jenny Nyström in the first half of the 20th century.
Jultomten’s visit to Swedish homes is timed to coincide with another very important part of a modern Swedish Christmas – Disney’s Donald Duck cartoon, shown on Swedish television at 15.00 on 24th December. Though of course American in origin, few would argue that Donald Duck is today an integral feature of any proper Swedish Christmas!
Usually, a family member or neighbour will dress up as Jultomten, often using a mask to disguise their face. The visit follows a traditional formula, with Jultomten asking ”Are there any good children here?” before distrubuting his burden of presents.
”Where does Santa Claus live”, an important question for many children in other countries, is of less importance in Norway and Sweden. This is perhaps due to the greater connection in Norway and Sweden between Jultomten and”gårdstomtar” (garden gnomes) and ”nissar” (small gnome-like helpers). Conversely, Finland with its Santa Park at Roveniemi has lobbied hard in recent years to be the officially EU-sanctioned home of Santa Claus!
Like Father Christmas/Santa Claus elsewhere, Jultomten remains a figure of great importance and part of the magic of any Swedish Christmas. Now….who’s that knocking at the door….?
Merry Christmas/God Jul and a Happy New Year/Gott Nytt År!
The Nature Travels Team