Educational Advent

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Most of you know it: I am a proud holder of a  history degree. I also start statements for which I require more than my natural authority with “As I historian, I think…”. Unlike many others, I think history is very exciting, more exciting than the future, actually.

It seems like the Swedish State Television SVT agrees with me. Every year, they air an advent calender, the julkalendern. Twenty-four little episodes that together form a story and that have a given place in the Swedish collective memory. This year, everything is different.

Drawing on the idea of Historieätarna (“The History Eaters”) with the same main actors Erik and Lotta, children join the pair in each episode – and each day, they are travelling to a different time. Titled “A Thousand Years until Christmas”, the calendar series starts with the family living as Vikings, first as poor people, then as well-off Scandinavians. The family set up is politically correct almost all the way and features cute children from all ages. I am most fond of the smallest one, Cleo, who is about three or four years and who enthralls viewers with her irresistable baby charm.

However, the series is not going through with a consecutive story as in all the years before. Instead, it is openly educational, sparking controversy among the Swedish people. “Leftist propaganda”, “boring educational program”, “tasteless”, comments rage on websites and in media. I was skeptical, too, when I saw the first episode. So I decided to check with the real target group and talked to a young Swedish child. She said, she liked the julkalendern. And then it grew on me and now I love seeing how they explain different epochs to children. (Also, the accompanying Twitter comments are often hilarious.) And I have come to agree with what some columnists have highlighted: What does it say about a parent if s/he hates an educational programme?

Tusen År till Jul is available world-wide on SVTplay.se.

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