In a few days, the Nordic public broadcasters unleash some of their biggest efforts throughout the year; the Christmas Calendars, aimed mostly at children and airing every day from December 1st to 24th.
The Nordic region has a long tradition of Christmas countdown TV drama for children, so-called Christmas calendars, which are the TV equivalent of the daily opening of a tiny present or a candy in a physical wall calendar with “pockets”. Each day in December, with a finale on Christmas Eve (which is the big day of Christmas in the Nordic region, not Christmas Day), a new episode is shown, often clocking in at 10 – 15 minutes. Many of the TV calendars feature fantasy elements, in part because Christmas in general is a big season for fantasy entertainment, with the landscape transformed and the magic of Santa approaching. These special 24-episode countdown dramas are in fact a Nordic invention; the first series aired in Sweden in 1960, and today all the Nordic countries air them each year, alternating between new productions and reruns of the most popular series. While some Christmas Calendars are aimed at adults – often satirical drama and parodies such as Nissene på låven – most of the titles are watched by children, not rarely with their parents by their side. The TV calendars are thus an important gateway into fantasy drama for the young ones.
This year, the Nordic public broadcasters (who are the most prominent in producing the calendars) offer the following titles:
The King of Christmas, a rerun from 2012 in which the young boy Kevin finds a Narnia-style path from his hometown to the magical Valley of Knights. He experiences many adventures along the way and befriends the king. Their common enemy is the king’s brother Snerk, who lusts to take over the throne. Fantasy element: A magic glove and alternate reality, among other things. Airing on NRK Super and NRK 3 from December 1st.
The Time Journey, a Danish series from 2014. The smallest public broadcaster in the region imports some of its Christmas calendars. About 13 year old Sofie whose greatest wish is that her parents, who got divorced last Christmas, gets back together so they can celebrate Christmas as a family. Sofie could enable this by traveling back to her parents’ childhood with a time machine. However, everything goes horribly wrong, and Sophie will have to rectify the problems along with the future of a boy called Dixie. At the same time she must battle a group of secret agents whose job it is to prevent time travel. Fantasy element: Time travel. Airs on RUV 1 from December 1st.
A thousand years to Christmas Eve, a new production (SVT usually produces a new calendar each year). Infotainment about children and their lives throughout history. Fantasy element: Time travel (sort of). Airing on SVT 1 and SVT Barnkanalen from December 1st.
Absalon’s Secret, a rerun from 2006. 12 year-old Cecilie lives with her family above a department store in Copenhagen. Cecilie is interested in stones, and in connection with the construction of a new subway tunnel under the department store, ruins of Absalon’s farm are found. Cecilie later meets Hubert, who does not know where he comes from. Together, the two searches for Absalon’s secret, which might make Cecilie’s sick baby sister Ida well again. Fantasy element: Supernatural beings.. Airing on DR from December 1st (other calendars also air on DR Ultra and DR Ramasjang for children of various ages).
The missing gifts case, a new production. Two policemen, Maltti and Valtti are assigned to work in the mountains, where they get involved in a mystery about missing Christmas presents. They also need to find out who the mysterious woman who lives in the tower is. Fantasy element: Present but not disclosed. Airing on YLE from December 1st.
You may also want to read our essay on how priorities are being made when it comes to children’s fantasy drama.