He Sees You When You're Sleeping

A photo taken in 2003 of a Swedish 'jultomte' in a shop window display.

The figure in the image above isn’t Santa Claus gone wrong and hell-bent on brutal revenge, but rather a Swedish jultomte. It’s a twenty-year-old photo I’ve posted on-line before.

Re-hashing what I wrote back then: Sweden has only partly embraced and assimilated the standardized North American version of a North-Pole-based Santa Claus. A near-equivalent figure there is jultomten, the christmas gnome. A Tomte was, traditionally, a little fellow who dwelt under the floorboards in a homestead’s barn; a guardian spirit who looked after the farm’s people and their livestock. All he asked in return was that a bowl of porridge be left out for him at Yuletide. In the latter part of the 19th century, tomte began to take on, in the popular imagination, some of the attributes of St. Nicholas, coming to be associated with the bringing of Christmas gifts…

The one seen here graced the festive window display of a shop on Borgmästaregatan in Karlskrona, which sold horse-riding tack and pet-related paraphernalia. He didn’t re-appear the December after I’d first written about him: I hope I wasn’t in any way responsible for his retirement.