In Norway we have a tradition where each year the television channels air shows with a Christmas theme that has a new episode each day between December 1st and December 24th.
December 24th is the main day of celebration in Norway, so a British or US TV calendar would end at the 25th instead.
I think this is a tradition that would be great for other countries to adopt aswell!
But until that happends, here are a few great TV calendars to check out, if you can find any DVD’s with English subtitles.
Jul i Skomakergata (1979)
Translated as ‘Christmas on Cobbler Street’, this is the second ever Christmas series to be made in Norway.
It may be slow and bare-bones by today’s standards, but it is a classic, and it is almost single-handedly responsible for this tradition.
It is a sweet little story of a friendly neighbourhood cobbler, and it aired for many years before any other show could even contend with it.
The Julekalender (1994)
This is a remake of a 1991 Danish calendar by the same name.
There was also a Finish remake in 1997.
It is a comedy about three individuals of a mythological creature from Nordic folklore, known as a nisse.
Nisses are commonly said to live around farmland, often in stables, in the mountains or in the woods.
They are similar to gnomes or the Scotish brownie.
Nisses are so prevalent in Norwegian folklore that we even named Santa “Julenissen” when he was introduced to us.
The story of the show revolves around three nisses from America who return to Norway.
They speak half English and half Norwegian, making them sound very silly.
The best parts of this show are the humorous songs they perform, and the husband and wife living at the farm close-by, who has to play hosts to an annoying vampire-like creature who is hunting the nisses.
The three nisses and the three people at the farm are also played by the same three comedians.
Amalies Jul (1995)
Translated as ‘Amalie’s Cristmas’, and made for children, this was my first ever Advent Calendar.
This one also revolves around three nisses.
A father, a mother and a daughter, the daughter being the main character.
Each day she has to do a prank or a good deed to a human living on her farm, in preparation to taking a test on Christmas Eve to determine if she can earn her long red stocking cap, a proof of her nisse maturity.
Mysteriet på Greveholm (1996)
A Swedish calendar, translated as ‘The Mystery of the Count’s Islet’.
A family moves into an old castle, and have to deal with burglars and ghosts.
Sweden has an even bigger culture around TV advent calendars than Norway, having produced a new one every single year since 1960.
Jul i Blåfjell (1999)
Translated as ‘Christmas in Blue Mountain’, this is a follow-up of sorts to ‘Amalies Jul’.
Instead of focusing on the traditional red nisses, this show stars a tribe of blue nisses living deep inside a mountain over a small Norwegian town.
The two types of nisse would later meet in the crossover series ‘Jul på Månetoppen’. And there would later be made a film based on the series, with the English title ‘Magic Silver’.
Vazelina Hjulkalender (2000)
This is a hokey but fun comedy show made by the Norwegian rockabilly-band Vazelina Bilopphøggers.
The band works at a scrap yard, and has to help Santa when he crash-lands in front of them.
They also have to contend with the rich people at the local hotel, who attempt to have their scrap yard closed down.
Olsenbandens Første Kupp (2001)
Also a remake of a Danish predecessor, this is a prequel to a series of comedy films about Olsenbanden, a small group of bank robbers.
The show is set in the 50s, and features child-versions of many of the characters from the films.
Nissene på Låven (2001)
‘The Nisses in The Barn’ is a parody of ‘Big Brother’, where several people compete for a money price by trying to not get voted out of the barn until December 24th.
While they are there, they can only wear a Santa costume, only eat Christmas porrige, and they all have to compete in Christmas-related competitions.
The same group of comedians would later go on to make another reality-show parody with people dressed as Santa called ‘Nissene Over Skog og Hei’, this time parodying wilderness reality shows.
One of the most popular characters would also get his own talk-show calendar, namely ‘Asbjørns Julekalender’.
Jul i Blodfjell (2017)
While the name is a parody of ‘Jul i Blåfjell’ (with “blod” meening “blood”, while “blå” means “blue”), the plot has nothing to do with that show.
This is a comedy horror/murded-mystery show, with a new murder-victim each day/episode.
The characters are all very funny, and the plot is genuinely intriguing.
Advent calendar shows never have more than one season, but they get rerun if they are popular. Since there are many popular calendars there is always a rotation of reruns. So the same ones don’t get rerun each year.
If the networks want to continue a story, they make a new spin-off show with a new name instead of having a second season. Like what they did with ‘Amalies Jul’/’Blåfjell’/’Månetoppen’. But these are self-contained, so that they can rerun them by themselves if they get popular.
And if anyone should be unable to watch the calendar one day, not to worry.
The episodes are usually rather short, so the channels often show yesterday’s episode before the new one. And there is also usually a narrated recap at the start of each episode.
I hope you found this interesting. But I also have a list of fun Christmas films, if that is more your cup of eggnog.
A great tradition indeed! Thanks for sharing this. I hope that the Christmas spirit would be stronger than commercialism this year.
Let’s hope so 🙂
I have not seen any Christmas calendar on television for many years. I have not seen anyone for a long time, think they are not as good as when you were younger. Sweden’s television started already in 1960 with Christmas calendar on television and the first program was broadcast on November 27th, the first advent. This was because they did not send any television on Wednesdays at that time! But there were still 24 programs.
Cool fact 🙂
Do you know why there were no television on Wednesdays then?
I have no idea, but it was certainly something that politicians decided in the tightly held Sweden!